Ireland stands ready to assist Japan, says Kenny
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said Ireland stands ready to assist Japan in any way possible after a massive earthquake triggered a tsunami that crashed into the country's eastern coastline.
Mr Kenny sent a message to Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan expressing Ireland's sympathy and concern.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said none of the estimated 2,000 Irish people in the Asian country have been reported injured in the massive quake, which sparked tsunami warnings across the Pacific.
"I wish to express the solidarity of the Irish people with the people of Japan in this moment of great trial," Mr Kenny said.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost families and friends to this tragedy.
"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."
DFA has set up its consular crisis centre to deal with calls from worried relatives of those living in Japan.
Ireland's ambassador to Japan John Neary said diplomats in Tokyo were following up on a number of queries.
"We have no information so far of any Irish citizens being injured or seriously affected by the earthquake," Mr Neary said.
"But a number of calls have been logged with the Crisis Centre in Dublin and we're now following up on those here."
Of the estimated 2,000 Irish citizens in Japan, 1,000 are in the capital Tokyo.
The quake struck at 2.46pm local time (5.46am GMT) and was followed by at least 12 powerful aftershocks, seven of them of a magnitude of at least 6.3 - the size of the quake which struck New Zealand on February 22.
Experts said that the main shock was as much as 8,000 times as powerful as the one which devastated Christchurch.
The quake sparked a massive tsunami that crashed into the east coast of Japan, washing away cars, boats, buildings and tons of debris from its path.
Tanaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore, who was in Budapest at a meeting of EU Foreign Ministers, expressed sympathy at the loss of life and devastation caused by the earthquake.
He urged people in the country to contact the Crisis Centre to let them know they are safe.
"Efforts are continuing to make contact with people who are registered," he said.
"People who know of Irish people who are in Japan who have made contact with their homes or with their families or friends, it would be very helpful if they made that information known to the Crisis Centre so that we can have the most comprehensive track on where Irish people are and hopefully that they are all safe."
The DFA revealed details of the extent of the damage and casualties are emerging gradually.
A spokesman added: "Communications remain difficult and local authorities and emergency services are still dealing with the immediate impact of the earthquake."
The Department has advised anyone concerned about family or friends in the affected area to contact its Crisis Centre at (01) 4180233.