54 Aussies stuck in Japan quake zone

March 12th, 2011 - 4:29 pm ICT by ANI  

Kevin Rudd Tokyo/Melbourne, Mar. 12 (ANI): At least 54 Australians are stuck in disaster zones in quake-cum-tsunami hit northeast Japan.

Speaking a day after the tragedy in the city of Sendai, Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said contact had been made with all Japanese prefectures except Miyagi, where the danger and damage has been the greatest.

Communications in Sendai were severely degraded, and according to news.com.au, 54 Australians are registered as living in the city, and probably hundreds of Australians living in surrounding areas.

“The pictures are awful and they are stomach-turning in terms of the level of destruction and the force of nature. Therefore, we are deeply worried about the impact and the loss of life on the local Japanese communities in that area, as we are about the numbers of Australians who are registered as being in Sendai and the additional number we believe to be resident in Sendai as well,” Rudd was quoted, as saying.

The Japan Australia Friendship Association president, Mike Dunphy, fears for at least a dozen loved ones after Friday’s 8.9-magnitude quake - the seventh biggest in history.

“We have got family and friends in Japan, not in the earthquake zone directly, but around Tokyo and surrounding areas and we have been trying to contact them but it hasn’t been easy, the phone lines are jammed,” he said.

There were an estimated 11,000 Australians living in Japan, with most in Tokyo and Osaka.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said there were no reports of Australian casualties or injuries and it was seeking to contact Australians to confirm their well-being.

Australia’s travel advisory to Japan has been updated to keep Australians at least 10km away from the Fukushima No.1 nuclear plant, where there are concerns about leakages.

A Japanese nuclear safety panel said radiation levels are 1000 times above normal in the reactor’s control room after the plant’s cooling system was damaged.

Australians have been urged to reconsider travel to ski resorts in the Nagano and Niigata prefectures because of the risk of further quakes and avalanches.

A number of airports in Japan’s north are closed and flights across the nation have been disrupted.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard raised concerns for the Australians this morning as as she prepared to board a flight from New York to San Francisco - diverting from her intended trip to Hawaii because of a tsunami warning.

“The ambassador will be doing everything he can to get in contact with Australians and ascertain their safety and welfare,” she said.

Gillard said she had been advised the tsunami would not affect Australia, however New Zealand civil defence officials upgraded their tsunami warning early this morning, saying waves of more than one metre were expected. (ANI)

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