The first of two planes chartered by Hong Kong's government arrived at Tokyo's Haneda airport early Wednesday to begin evacuating Hong Kong passengers stranded on a virus-stricken cruise ship docked in Yokohama, local media reported.
Security Secretary John Lee said a third chartered flight may be sent for the evacuation since the passengers will likely be released in batches and it could take days to complete.
Some 230 of the 352 Hong Kong people on board the Diamond Princess have agreed to take the government-chartered flights back home.
A first batch of 45 people will take the flight scheduled to depart Haneda airport at 1.45 a.m. Thursday, Hong Kong officials coordinating the evacuation in Japan told reporters.
Hundreds of passengers started disembarking Wednesday after a two-week quarantine period. The disembarkation is expected to take three days at least, according to the Japanese government.
A South Korean presidential plane has already evacuated several of that country's citizens.
A plane chartered by the Canadian government was expected to depart Haneda on Thursday and a Taiwanese one is expected to arrive as early as Friday afternoon, while Italy is sending a military plane to evacuate its citizens, many of whom are crew members.
Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin said in a tweet Wednesday that he has ordered the immediate repatriation of Filipinos aboard the quarantined ship, dozens of whom have tested positive for the virus. "I want them home now!" he wrote.
The cruise ship was initially carrying around 3,700 passengers and crew from more than 50 countries and regions.