Handful of Irish living in worst-hit region 'safe and well'
A SMALL number of Irish citizens who were living near the epicentre of the devastating earthquake in Japan have been found safe and well.
There had been concerns for a handful of people living in northern Japan who had not been in touch with family or friends since the earthquake struck last Friday.
But in the past 24 hours officials with the Department of Foreign Affairs managed to make contact with those who were in the worst-hit Sendai region.
"We were able to make contact with all the people on the list that we had concerns about," a spokeswoman for the department said last night. "They are safe and well."
Around 2,000 Irish citizens live in Japan, with the majority of these living in the greater Tokyo and Osaka areas, which suffered serious tremors but were not struck by tsunamis.
President Mary McAleese conveyed her sympathies to Emperor Akihito of Japan.
"On behalf of the people of Ireland, and on my own behalf, I wish to convey to you and the people of Japan deepest sympathy on the tragic loss of so many lives in Friday's earthquake and tsunami which hit northern Japan," Ms McAleese said.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who are bereaved. We hope that those who have been injured will make a full and speedy recovery.
"As a friend of Japan, Ireland is steadfast in its solidarity with you and your people at this most difficult time."
Tanaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore said the Government had offered its support to the Red Cross relief operation in Japan.
He revealed his department had been in close contact with the Japanese government and that the Irish Aid Rapid Response Corps and emergency stockpiles in Malaysia were available for immediate dispatch if required.
A crisis centre is continuing to offer assistance to Irish citizens and their families. It can be contacted at 01 418 0233 or the Irish Embassy in Tokyo can be reached at +81 332 630695.