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UC evacuates students in Japan

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March 17, 2011 |

The University of California is evacuating all of its students from Japan, university officials announced late Wednesday. Seven UC Davis students are among the contingent of 80 UC students enrolled in education abroad programs in the earthquake-devastated nation.

In a separate announcement Thursday, the UCD Education Abroad Center canceled its upcoming Spring Quarter Abroad program to Kyoto. Two Summer Abroad programs scheduled to leave for Kyoto and Okazaki on June 25 remain on schedule for the time being.

Grace Crickette, chief risk officer for the UC system, reported the decision to evacuate students late Wednesday, citing “difficult-to-predict risks.” The country is reeling from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, as well as the subsequent radiation threat and continuing aftershocks.

“Conditions in Japan continue to present a variety of difficult-to-predict risks,” Crickette wrote in an e-mail. “In addition, the number of people leaving the affected areas and moving to Tokyo and Kyoto will place an additional burden on the Japanese infrastructure. With this in mind, I am writing to advise that we are proceeding with evacuation of all students from Japan.”

The evacuation decision follows a U.S. State Department travel warning urging Americans in Japan to leave and those considering going there to postpone their plans.

Within 24 hours of the 9.0-magnitude earthquake, UC officials had accounted for all 80 students enrolled in education programs in Japan, and determined that all were safe. Some were traveling outside Japan at the time.

The seven UCD students had been studying at five universities: Kejo, Osaka, Doshisha, International Christian and Meiji Gakuin. The latter two are closest to the areas of worst damage, about 200 miles from Sendai.

Zachary Frieders, associate director of UCD’s Education Abroad Center, said the seven students will work with UC’s travel assistance provider to arrange evacuation plans. Meanwhile, students who were planning to depart for Japan will enroll in classes and make plans to stay in Davis.

Canceling the spring program “is a significant decision that is based on thorough analysis and input of campus risk and safety experts, UC systemwide information, and U.S. State Department advisories,” Frieders said.

“Our primary concern is the safety of students and faculty who would have traveled to Japan on this program. The fluid and rapidly changing nature of events in Japan present significant obstacles to ensuring their well-being.”

At least one UC Davis faculty member, Geoff Schladow, was traveling in Japan at the time of the quake. Schladow, director of the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center, reported that he and his family are fine.

Meanwhile, life is back to normal for UCD students, faculty and staff at the university’s Bodega Marine Laboratory, about half a mile from the Pacific Coast.

The university closed the lab and surrounding tidal reserve lands after the quake, and alerted the 40 people who work and study there to stay away from the coast until the tsunami danger had passed.

Nita Puig-Alberts, administrative officer for the Bodega Marine Laboratory, said Thursday that the facility appears to have sustained no damage despite “unusual waves” that rolled into Bodega Harbor.

— UC Davis News Service

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Claudia Morain

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