Sunday 21 January 2018

Consular support for Irish with relatives in Japan

Waves from the tsunami crash into homes in Natori. Photo: AP
A surge of water from the tsunami hits the coastal areas of Iwanuma, Miyagi Prefecture. Photo: Reuters
A whirl pool caused by the tsunami near a port in Oarai, Ibaraki Prefecture. Photo: AP
An oil refinery burns in Ichihara, Chiba Prefecture. Photo: AP
Houses in the northeastern city of Natori engulfed in flames surrounded by flood waters and debris. Photo: AP
Flood water and debris swamp Sendai Airport in Miyagi Prefecture. Photo: AP
The scene on the ground in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture after the tsunami struck. Photo: AP

None of the estimated 2,000 Irish people in Japan have been reported injured in the massive earthquake which rocked the country and triggered tsunami warnings around the Pacific, officials have confirmed.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has set up its consular crisis centre to deal with calls from worried relatives of those living in the Asian country.

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."

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.

Press Association

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