SEATTLE -- Hundreds of U.S. military family members, including one with Utah ties, fleeing Japan following the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear reactor troubles there arrived Saturday at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, where they awaited travel arrangements that would take them to homes around the country.
Nearly 240 family members -- including 190 children -- landed after a 10-hour flight chartered by the Defense Department from Yokota Air Base, said Navy Region Northwest spokesman Sean Hughes. They're the first of what is expected to be thousands of military personnel and their families arriving at Sea-Tac over the next week or so.
The families evacuated voluntarily, many over concerns about radiation. The Defense Department paid travel costs and provided other emergency financial assistance.
Bryce Yazzie, 16, waited with his mother and brother to return to Salt Lake City. He said that, depending on how long it takes for it to become safe to return to Japan, he and his brother might finish the school year in Utah, then return to Japan this summer.
His father is in the Air Force, and they've lived in Japan for the past year and a half.
"With the nuclear reactor, the worst-case scenario could be bad, so my dad signed us up for the voluntary evacuation," Bryce said. "My mom's pretty stressed out, but me and my brother don't mind as much. We're going with the flow."
Jennifer Hamuka, traveling home to St. Louis with her two teenage children, said she was evacuating "in the best interest of my family. The radiation risk isn't bad right now, but I didn't want to take the chance of there being a big risk in the near future."
The weary travelers spent much of the day waiting as USO volunteers helped them arrange housing, transportation and loans, if necessary. Some sprawled out and tried to sleep, while others read or passed the time on laptops. A public information officer from Naval Base Kitsap sat in a circle with children and told stories.