Officials at Temple University said Thursday that they will evacuate about 200 American students and staff from the school's campus in Japan because of radiation fears.
The decision was based on a State Department warning and data from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is monitoring leaks from Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, university
President Ann Weaver Hart said in a statement.
"The State Department strongly urges U.S. citizens to defer travel to Japan at this time and those in Japan should consider departing," according to the warning issued Wednesday.
Last week's magnitude-9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan killed thousands and damaged the nuclear plant that is now leaking radiation.
Temple's campus in Tokyo is about 140 miles from the nuclear plant, but the city recorded slightly elevated radiation levels earlier this week. It has also been rattled by powerful aftershocks.
Temple-Japan announced earlier this week that classes would be canceled through March 28 because of power outages and transportation problems in the capital. At that time, American officials also said it was not necessary to evacuate.
But on Thursday, the university announced it was working to secure a charter flight possibly this Saturday for about 200 American students. It may go through Hong Kong, Temple spokesman
Hillel Hoffmann said Thursday.
"This is a fluid situation," Hoffmann told The Associated Press. "Our chief concern is the safety of our students."
Temple's campus in Tokyo, founded in 1982, is the oldest foreign university in Japan. It serves about 3,400 students, half of whom are Japanese. The other half come from 60 countries.
Hoffmann could not say if students would be able to complete the semester at Temple-Japan, but that the university "is going to do whatever it can to help students finish out the semester wherever
those students end up."
Hart, the university president, said in her statement that Temple-Japan Dean Bruce Stronach, a U.S. citizen, has chosen to stay in Tokyo. She praised him and the campus staff - which is mostly Japanese _ for their handling of "this trying and fast-evolving series of emergencies."