Canada won't be evacuating citizens in Japan following last week's massive earthquake, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Tuesday.
"We continue to advise Canadians not to take unnecessary travel to Japan, but there are no plans for an evacuation at this time," Harper told reporters in Surrey, B.C.
"There continues to be large-scale, for the most part normal, commercial airline service from Japan, so if people want to leave they have that option," Harper said.
The prime minister also said Canada has offered a range of services and supplies if the government of Japan needs them.
"Japan is a wealthy country, Japan is a well-organized country with lots of its own resources to respond to these kinds of problems," he said, "and I gather there's a couple of things they will call upon us to assist them with."
Canadians in Japan
Citizens needing assistance can:
- call the embassy at 011-81-3-5412-6200;
- call the emergency operations centre in Ottawa collect at 613-944-2471 or 613-996-8885;
- email email@example.com.
Foreign affairs officials are asking Canadians in Japan to register with the embassy there as they try to get in touch with everyone affected by the earthquake and possible fall-out from stricken nuclear plants.
While Department of Foreign Affairs officials estimate there are 11,000 Canadians in Japan, only 2,403 are registered with the Canadian embassy in Tokyo. About 200 are registered in Sendai, the area most affected by the quake.
A spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Tuesday the embassy has contacted more than three quarters of those 200 people.
So far, the emergency operations centre has received 6,600 calls from Canadians at home and in Japan.
Foreign Affairs said Tuesday it was sending six consular specialists to the Canadian embassy in Tokyo as additional support.
"We are constantly re-assessing the need for reinforcements to be sent from headquarters or other missions in the region," the department said in an email.
But some Canadians told CBC News they are having trouble getting out of the devastated country.
Meiread Cavanagh said she's looking for help from the Canadian Embassy. She's in Mito, one of the cities in central Japan affected by rolling blackouts. Her son is in the hospital and has had a tracheotomy to breathe. The hole in his neck needs to be suctioned at least once an hour with a machine.
And while Cavanagh is Canadian, her six-month-old son doesn't have a passport yet and her husband is Ugandan, making it hard for the family to leave Japan and come to Canada.
"We need power for that machine. If we don't have power, it's basically a life-threatening situation," Cavanagh said from Mito. "I just want to go home."
In Ottawa, government officials are waiting for a request from the Japanese government before they can send any help.
Canada has offered a 17-member victim-identification team, as well as chemical, biological, and nuclear technical expertise and equipment, according to a statement from Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon's office.
The Canadian Forces are also willing to send personnel and planes to help with humanitarian relief efforts, and that could involve deploying its Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART).
The decision to send the rapid response specialists to disaster zones is made based on a joint recommendation from several government departments: Foreign Affairs, National Defence, and the Canadian International Development Agency.
The DART unit is only sent to an area if the domestic government there makes a formal request for it. When DART has been deployed in the past, in Haiti, for example, its members provided medical care, temporary shelter and safe drinking water.
Diane Ablonczy, minister of state for foreign affairs, told CBC's Power & Politics Monday that Japan has called in assistance from some of the countries who have offered, but she wouldn't say the DART unit would go.
"We're co-operating and collaborating with the Japanese government. And they will know what they will need and they know what we can provide and we just wait until they're ready for us to move ahead with some of the things that we've suggested," Ablonczy told host Rosemary Barton.
There are no plans for the government to match Canadian donations to Japan, she said.
Japan's ambassador to Canada, Kaoro Ishikawa, said any disaster relief teams would have to be self-sufficient, because local infrastructure is so decimated. Relief workers would have to have their own food, water, sleeping equipment, and sanitation kits, the ambassador said.
In Paris, Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon attended meetings with his G8 counterparts Tuesday. In a statement, they said their countries are ready to provide Japan with every help
"Ministers thanked their Japanese colleague, Takeaki Matsumoto, for his extensive briefing on the latest developments of the situation. They expressed their full confidence in the ability of the Japanese government to solve the crisis and paid tribute to the courage and dignity shown by the people of Japan," the statement said.
Radiation no risk to Canada
Federal officials are also reassuring Canadians there's no risk of radiation travelling from Japan to the West Coast.
While the Public Health Agency of Canada has a stockpile of iodine pills for nuclear situations, they don't expect radiation from Japan to pose a safety risk to people in Canada.
"Health Canada has been working closely with the [Meteorological Service of Canada] to predict wind patterns and identify areas that might be affected by a radiation release. Given current wind patterns, it would take several days for any radioactive material to reach Canada," Stephane Shank, a spokesman for Health Canada, said in an email.
"Based on the information available, it is anticipated that the amount of radiation reaching Canada, if any, would be negligible and not pose a health risk to Canadians."
Officials recommend Canadians in Japan follow instructions from the Japanese government. They say anyone planning travel to Japan should confirm their travel arrangements with their airline, tour group, or travel agent before heading to the airport.
Foreign Affairs advises against non-essential travel to Tokyo and surrounding areas, according to a warning on their website. They're also recommending against travel to the prefectures of Chiba, Miyagi, Ibaraki, Iwate, Aomori and Fukushima, due to damages caused by the March 11 earthquake and subsequent tsunamis. Sendai City, Fukushima City and Aomori City have been hardest hit.