No South Africans reported missing in Japan

2011-03-12 09:44

There has been no reports of missing or killed South Africans so far in Japan following a massive earthquake and tsunami in that country yesterday, the Department of International Relations and Co-operation said today.

“It is always difficult to give an exact number of South Africans living in another country, but we can estimate that there are between 200 and 500 citizens living in Japan,” spokesperson Clayson Monyela said.

Monyela said consular services were in contact with their embassy in Japan to assess whether South Africans needed any help.

People with relatives in Japan can contact the consular on 012 351 1750/1/1000.

Foreign news agencies are reporting that the aftermath death toll stood at 413 and over a thousand people were injured following the earthquake and tsunami that hit the east coast of Japan yesterday morning.

Hundreds more bodies have been found along the coast in Sendai, which is the biggest city near the epicentre of the earthquake.

Meanwhile, more bodies were believed to be buried in rubble and debris after buildings were flattened and vehicles swept away.

Some 784 people were also reported missing.

A South African living in Yokohama, Japan, told Sapa yesterday that they felt tremors and aftershocks as the earthquake and tsunami hit the east coast, about 300km away.

“The city’s operations ground to a halt and the population, heavily reliant on public transport, had been forced to find other ways of getting home after Japan Rail announced it was closed,” said Ulrich Külz, the secretary general of the South African Chamber of Commerce in Japan (SACCJ).

The 52-year-old who is a former resident of Stellenbosch and has been living in Japan for the past 23 years said people were still nervous “and this is in a city that is not too close to Sendei [the earthquake’s epicentre]”.

Külz said many people, including himself, had walked home because the wait had been too long for overcrowded taxi-cabs.

“I walked home with my wife after waiting two hours for a taxi, it’s a distance of 10km, but it took us two-and-a-half hours. Aall of that in a temperature of two degrees Celsius,” he said.

Sports stadiums, concert halls and event halls had been opened up overnight to provide accommodation to stuck commuters and hotels in Yokohama were fully booked, Külz said.

He said he had been trying to reach the embassy people to find out more information, but had been unable to reach them on their cellphones or office numbers.

“The South African ambassador to Japan, Gert Grobler, a close friend of mine, is also the honorary chairperson for the SACCJ,” he said.

“I can’t get hold of him. I don’t think he’s under the rubble, though. The networks have been blocked here even his daughter phoned me to ask how he was,” Külz said.

He had been busy teaching at his language academy when the quake hit.

“Everything started falling down. The ground shook so violently that we all fell down,” Külz said.

“The building next to ours is full of cracks... we had pieces of building falling done, but nobody was injured. Some older buildings collapsed though,” Külz said.

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