Twenty-five Hongkongers still in Japan had not been located by late yesterday, three days after the massive earthquake and devastating tsunami struck the island nation.
The Hong Kong government said it remained optimistic about finding the people, saying past experience indicated that many of them would be contacted soon.
'The telephone network in Japan has yet to resume normal operation and we hope that these people will be reached when the network services operate normally,' acting director of Immigration Eric Chan Kwok-ki said.
Among the 25, two were believed to be in Sendai and six in Tokyo or its surrounding areas, according to telephone signals, Chan said. The whereabouts of the rest were unknown.
Tokyo is the most popular travel destination in Japan for Hong Kong people. It is also a popular choice for students attending college.
But the natural disasters and the fear of nuclear reactor meltdowns in Fukushima were persuading many students to leave.
'I made a decision to return,' Bob Lee, a Hongkonger who has been studying Japanese politics at a university in Tokyo for the past three years. He was at Tokyo's Narita International Airport waiting to board a plane back to Hong Kong.
'[My family] were afraid about the explosions, so they wanted me to return,' Lee said.
'I was actually not that scared, but my family called many times since the quake struck.'
He would have a medical examination to check for radiation when he got home.
Although admittedly afraid of nuclear leakage, what really drove him crazy were the electricity outages, Lee said. His Tokyo home had been blacked out for hours every day since the quakes.
'And the government said it would be the same even in April ... I was feeling terrible. It was three hours a day.'
He did not want to go back next month for the start of the academic year.
Kiki Wong, who has studied web design in Tokyo for four years, flew back to Hong Kong yesterday, but vowed to return as she wanted to develop a career in Japan. She had a new job there and was set to start work on April 1.
Her family, worried about the nuclear plants and the aftershocks, had urged her to return home.
'I haven't slept very well for the past few days, and there were non-stop tremors,' she said. 'The train services were suspended.'
A classmate, Man Kit, said many Japanese people were leaving central business centres and going to safer parts of the country. She saw many people leaving Tokyo.
Immigration director Chan said additional manpower was being deployed to help Hong Kong people in Japan. The hotline (852) 1868 had received 4,131 inquiries and 796 calls for assistance.
Ten officers had been sent to Tokyo to help people return home.
Many Hong Kong travel agencies decided to cancel package tours to Japan until further notice.
About 1,000 travellers from 42 tour groups are in Japan, but have stayed away from dangerous areas. They would return later this week, the Travel Industry Council said.
The government issued a black travel warning on Fukushima, saying people should avoid all travel there, but maintained a red alert for the rest of Japan, saying people should avoid travel unless necessary.
Cathay Pacific Airways extended a special one-way economy class fare of HK$5,755 from Japan to Hong Kong to include seven airports in six cities - Narita and Haneda near Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Sapporo, Fukuoka and Okinawa.
The special fare would be available until Sunday and Cathay would refund the fare difference to passengers who had bought tickets at the full fare of about HK$15,000 from Saturday.