Collapse of phone lines hinders staff at embassy
IRISH officials were last night struggling to contact all Irish people living in quake-hit areas of Japan following the collapse of many of the country's communication lines.
Around 2,000 Irish people are known to be living in the country but there have been no reports of injuries or deaths.
The majority of Irish citizens reside in the greater Tokyo and Osaka areas, although there are a small number believed to be living in the harder-hit areas of north-east Japan.
The 8.9 magnitude earthquake struck at 2.46pm local time. It is the biggest earthquake to hit Japan, and one of the biggest ever in the world since records began in the late 1900s. Last night, the Department of Foreign Affairs had received more than 230 calls from family and friends of Irish citizens living in Japan.
Several Irish people in Japan who spoke to the Irish Independent yesterday said the death toll could have been "much, much worse" due to the magnitude of the quake.
John Neary, Ireland's Ambassador in Japan, said he was in his car on the way to a meeting when he felt the tremors and turned back.
Embassy workers have been trying to contact Irish citizens in quake-hit areas to ensure they are safe and uninjured.
"There's not many (living) there to the best of knowledge; most are living in the Tokyo or Osaka regions," Mr Neary said.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore sent their condolences to the Japanese people.
"While it is our sincere and earnest belief that the Japanese people will recover quickly and fully from this disaster, Ireland stands ready to assist our Japanese friends in any way possible," said Mr Kenny.
Anyone who is concerned about family or friends in the affected areas should contact the department's crisis centre on (01) 4180233.