Last update: 06-Dec-2013 1:00 am
Friday, December 06, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Rambachan in SOS for Trinis in Japan
Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Surujrattan Rambachan yesterday initiated immediate action to contact T&T nationals in Japan after yesterday’s record 8.9 earthquake and tsunami which claimed hundreds of lives and caused extensive destruction. He issued a public appeal, sent text messages and even made personal telephone calls, all to no avail. Dr Rambachan made the disclosure at an interview during yesterday’s House of Representatives tea break. Meanwhile Japanese Ambassador to Port-of-Spain Tatsuaki Iwata told the T&T Guardian last night that based on the reports he received all 25 T&T nationals on teaching programmes there were accounted for. Rambachan said he first issued a public appeal on national radio for the families of nationals in Japan to contact his ministry.
“What we have had to do today is make a public appeal this morning to families who have relatives in Japan. And we received about ten calls for the day from families here,” he added. He also sent personal e-mails to telephone numbers assigned to some of the undisclosed number of T&T nationals in Japan.
Rambachan said up to news time those initiatives were to no avail as no contact was made. “I have been trying to call the numbers that have been given to us but there has been no reply,” he told reporters. He read the text message he sent out as follows: “‘If you pick up (receive) this message kindly call back the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’. So I have been trying all kinds of ways to see if we could make some kind of contact with some of these people.”
Rambachan said most of the T&T citizens in Japan were English teachers, but there were also a couple students. Rambachan read a text message he received from one family in T&T about a relative in Japan.
As the death toll continues to rise, Rambachan said, one T&T citizen in Japan was speaking with her family here as the earthquake struck. “The parents got a call from her last night (T&T time) at the time of the earthquake and they have not been able to contact her since,” he added. “So we’ll have to make some kind of enquiries through the Japanese Ambassador here because a lot of the teachers went through a programme with the Japanese Government,” he said.
Rambachan said additional support is being sought from the T&T High Commission in London and the Jamaica Embassy in Tokyo. He spoke of the need for T&T nationals to register their departures with his ministry in the future. “What we are saying to people is that when you go to high risk areas you should try and let us know where you are,” he added. Rambachan said the disaster “tells us how vulnerable we are in the Caribbean. Imagine if we have an earthquake here of that magnitude, what will happen to us.”
But Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar later described the event as “a devastating disaster ... I think this one has been really terrible,” she told reporters at the Committee Room in Parliament. The PM later said she received a report from the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Unit, St Augustine, which said that “there is no threat for Trinidad and Tobago from what happened in the Pacific.” International media reports say the death toll is expected to rise to over 1,000.
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