Foreign firms evacuate workers in Japan

Tokyo residents cram into the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) as they leave Tokyo heading west days after the earthquake struck.

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: The Japanese government today evacuated the employees of the Fukushima nuclear plant. They're expected to return soon. But for a lot of businesses not too far from that plant, workers have fled until further notice. German car maker BMW and car part maker Continental were among companies moving employees out of Japan completely.

Julian Heath works with companies dealing with disaster such as the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. His firm is called Control Risks, and he's with us on the line. Good morning, sir.

JULIAN HEATH: Good morning Steve how are you?

CHIOTAKIS: I'm doing well. You are currently working with companies in Japan about how they are responding. What are you telling them?

HEATH: At the moment, we're telling them that the environment is safe outside the areas that have been defined as exclusion zones. The challenge is that everyone's on a roller coaster, and will be I think, for some time to come. They're confronting aftershocks and earthquakes, some 420-odd since the main earthquake last Friday.

CHIOTAKIS: What kind of situations have you had to deal with over there in this crisis?

HEATH: The most confronting I think is for companies that have a mixed workforce of ex-patriots and Japanese and making the decision to actually evacuate their ex-patriot workforce, which clearly, you know they're working together as team and then suddenly elements of that team you know, are withdrawn. Clearly, that's quite destabilizing.

CHIOTAKIS: What are the toughest decisions companies, you think, have had to make in this situation?

HEATH: You know, considering the cost of relocating business either within Japan or actually shifting it off shore, with limited information, and misinformation is the most confronting.

CHIOTAKIS: Julian Heath, director operations and standards at Control Risks. Julian, thank you.

HEATH: Steve, my pleasure.

About the author

Steve Chiotakis was the host of Marketplace Morning Report until January 2012.

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