DISASTER

HM extends condolences to the Emperor of Japan


No Thais believed injured or killed in Japan; country to send dogs, aid

His Majesty King Bhumibol sent a condolence letter yesterday to His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of Japan in relation to the huge earthquake and tsunami that hit the east of Honshu Island, killing at least 1,000 people and injuring 600 others.

An unofficial translation of the royal letter said that Their Majesties the King and Queen Sirikit were saddened to hear about the quake and tsunami, which caused many deaths and injuries, as well as immense damage to Japan. So, Their Majesties wished to extend their deepest sympathy to His Imperial Majesty and those affected by the natural disaster.

PM Abhisit Vejjajiva and Thai Ambassador to Tokyo Veerasak Futrakul said yesterday that no Thai nationals were killed or injured in the quake.

A centre to assist Thai workers, established at the Thai embassy in Tokyo, reported that 90 per cent of the 20,000 Thai workers in Japan had been confirmed as safe.

PM Abhisit affirmed that no Thais were reported injured or dead from the quake and tsunami, and said that the Cabinet would discuss assistance for those affected at its meeting on Monday.

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said Thailand would initially send 24 officials and six sniffer dogs to assist in the search-and-rescue operations.

Kasit said casualties from the quake and tsunami had reached 1,000 deaths and 600 injuries, but no Thai citizens were harmed. Foreign Ministry officials had

contacted the Public Health Ministry to prepare a team of doctors to assist the victims, as well as the Royal Thai Police and the Red Cross Society to prepare a team for victim identification in response to a request for help from the Japanese government.

Kasit said he would meet with the Japanese Ambassador to Thailand this morning to discuss the assistance Japan needed and he would present a plan for more assistance to Japan to the Cabinet meeting tomorrow.

Thai Ambassador to Tokyo Veerasak Futrakul said the embassy had contacted the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as local state agencies in quake-hit areas and were told there had been no reports of Thai people being injured or killed in te disaster.

But they could not get clear information from the disaster-hit Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, which became inaccessible by land and air, so he said the embassy was ready to send a team of officials to travel to inspect the prefectures and provide assistance as soon as the areas were accessible again.

Veerasak reported that the Thai embassy sustained slight damage from the quake but said Thai people could travel safely to Japan despite some inconveniences.

Many had contacted the embassy, as they couldn't contact about 180 relatives or friends in Japan via the phone. The embassy had so far found 10 Thais unharmed.

It has set up a co-ordination centre which can be reached around the clock on 03-3222-4101 extension 200 and 275.

Minister-Counsellor for Labour, Kamol Sawatchookaew, said 90 per cent of 19,700 Thai workers in Japan were located and confirmed safe - including the two Thai workers in Miyagi prefecture. But as Japanese authorities had warned of more aftershocks throughout the month, so he urged Thai people there to be cautious and notify the embassy in the event of an emergency.

Labour Ministry spokesman Sutham Natheethong said the Employment Department Hotline 1694 had received 100 phone calls since the quake from people who inquired about their loved ones in Japan because communication systems malfunctioned. There were 200 Thai workers in Miyagi prefecture and Sendai city, he said. Two Thai restaurants in Miyagi were also affected.

Thai workers who were members of the welfare fund for people working abroad could get compensation - Bt40,000 for their families in the case of deaths caused by a natural disaster and Bt30,000 for injuries.

People from online networks such as Twitter and Facebook, plus Deputy Commerce Minister Alongkorn Ponlaboot went to the Japanese Embassy in Bangkok yesterday to offer white roses in condolence for those killed in the quake and tsunami.

In Phichit, schoolboy Keigo Sato, whose quest for his long-lost Japanese father made headlines in 2009, voiced concern yesterday at not being able to contact his dad, Katsumi Sato, via the phone, following the quake.

In Chiang Mai, a Japanese teacher at Payap University Tomoharu Ebihara said some 3,000 Japanese nationals in Chiang Mai were concerned and saddened by losses caused by the quake and tsunami. He said the Thai-Japan Education Development Foundation (TJEDF) had started to raise funds to give to the Sendai and Miyagi municipal offices to assist tsunami victims (call 081 972-9863 for details).

Important numbers

Important numbers to call for developments regarding the Japanese quake:

- The Department of Employment hotline 1694

- Department of Consular Affairs' Protection of Thai Nationals Abroad Division: 02-575-1046-9 (during working hours) and 02-6435-000 (after working hours)

- Thai Embassy in Tokyo at (813) 3222-4101 extension 200 and 275, Twitter at RTE Tokyo, or email/MSN to rtetokyo@hotmail.com

- Thai Consulate in Osaka: (816) 6262-9226-9

- Mineral Resources Department's Geo-hazards Operating Centre hotline at 0-2621-9703-5

- Inquiry for Thai Airways flights to Japan at 02-545-3181

- Donations are being accepted at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Bangkok's Sri Ayudhya Road or via the Krung Thai Bank (Sam Yod branch) account number 002-0-271-46-8.

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