TOKYO, March 16, 2011— -- Should I stay or should I go? That old lyric by The Clash has become a very serious question of the moment in Tokyo, where concerns over the ongoing battle to contain the Fukushima Daiichi reactor has flights booked solid and millions more considering their exit strategies.
When we arrived at Tokyo's Haneda airport in the wee hours of Thursday, floors and lounges were covered with people anxious to catch the first flight out.
I met some Americans who work for Honda. They told me their employer encouraged them to head back to the United States until the situation -- and their nerves -- calmed down.
Yesterday, our team took off on a different kind of flight. We flew out by helicopter to the USS Ronald Reagan, stationed off the Japanese coast, from which American search and rescue efforts are being staged.
But moments after takeoff, the ship waved us back to land, citing bad weather -- rain. Once the weather cleared, commanders said they were still too worried about drifting radiation to allow us to try to fly back to the ship.
As for advice on what to do, it depends on where you're from.
Right now, the official U.S. position is that all Americans -- including more than 80,000 troops -- should stay at least 50 miles from the damaged reactor, about four times as far as the official Japanese recommendation.
The French have been the most concerned, all along advising all French nationals to leave Japan immediately. While the British have said there is no physical danger outside of the reactor zone but given the shortage of food and gas, people should probably leave the country anyway.
While some of colleagues are re-basing to safer distance, we are catching a scheduled flight home today, conflicted between the desire to cover this massive story and the urge to get as far away as possible.