Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Fears for Britons after Japan quake

Fears are growing for British nationals who may have been caught in the devastating Japanese earthquake (AP)
A residential area remains in flood in Sendai, northern Japan, following the tsunami (AP)
A woman carries belongings she collected from a house swept by a tsunami at Rikuzentakada (AP)

Concern is growing over "inevitable" British casualties caught up in the devastating Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

Two days on from the disaster, the Foreign Office said there were no confirmed casualties from the UK, but they received more than 4,000 calls from worried loved-ones and Government officials, expats in Japan and relatives in the UK are fearing the worst.

Around 17,000 British nationals were believed to be living and working in the country when the catastrophic quake struck at 5.46am UK time on Friday. Seismology experts said the huge quake - one of the largest ever recorded - actually had a magnitude of 9.0, rather than the previously reported figure of 8.9.

English teacher Jenny Tamura Spragg, 33, who lives in Saitama, described how people were queueing for miles for petrol, shops were selling out of basic food and power saving cuts were being introduced.

She said: "Supermarkets have sold out of rice, bread, milk, bottled water and other daily necessities as people stock up out of precaution or fear that another big one will hit. As far as British expats safety is concerned, I would say that British casualties is an inevitable reality."

In the UK, Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne said there would "almost certainly" be foreigners affected. He said: "I am not in a position to make a definitive statement about the number of British nationals caught up in it but clearly it is a huge devastating disaster and there almost certainly will be foreign nationals involved."

Just before 11am UK time on Sunday, a UK International Search and Rescue (ISAR) team, organised by the Department for International Development, arrived in Japan to assist in the rescue effort. Both teams will remain at the US Misawa air base overnight, before joining the international effort to search for live victims that may be trapped in the debris.

The UK-ISAR team is made up of Urban Search and Rescue specialists from Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Hampshire, Kent, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, West Sussex, West Midlands, and Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Services.

The British Embassy in Tokyo was bolstered with extra staff who were flown in from across Asia, London and the Americas to boost the support provided to British citizens. The Foreign Office updated its travel advice recommending against all non-essential travel to Tokyo and North East Japan.

Concerned friends and relatives should contact the Foreign Office on the special number 020 7008 0000.

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