Registered SA citizens in Japan all accounted for

2011-03-12 14:11

All South African citizens registered with the embassy to be living in Japan have been accounted for, the Department of International Relations and Co-operation said today.

The update comes as Japan’s east coast was hit by a devastating earthquake and tsunami yesterday morning, leaving about 413 people dead in its wake.

The embassy reported that the citizens, estimated to be between 200 and 500, were safe, department spokesperson Clayson Monyela said.

He said none of the citizens so far have asked the embassy for assistance and added that consular services were in contact with authorities in Japan to continue monitoring the situation.

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

Foreign news agencies are reporting that over a thousand people were left injured following the natural disaster.

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, said 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 – all 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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