China's diplomatic staff on the frontline of evacuation effort in Japan

08:45, April 02, 2011      

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China's Foreign Ministry said Sunday it had basically completed the work of assisting Chinese citizens to leave Japanese areas hit by the devastating earthquake and tsunami.

Thanks to the help of five working teams from the Chinese embassy in Tokyo and the general consulates in Niigata and Sapporo, about 7,200 Chinese nationals in the affected areas were taken to Tokyo and Niigata, and 9,300 Chinese nationals throughout Japan had returned home.

Risking their own safety, the Chinese diplomatic staff in Japan carried out timely and efficient relief work and an evacuation mission in the country's worst-hit areas in the face of a series of challenges including massive aftershocks, flooding from the tsunami and radiation leaks.

As the diplomats have said, all the danger and their hardships were worthwhile in ensuring their compatriots were safely evacuated.


Though the epicenter of the devastating earthquake was hundreds of kilometers from Tokyo, the diplomats in the Tokyo-based Chinese embassy felt a strong shake when the quake rocked the country's northeast on March 11.

Amid the sirens of speeding ambulances and fire trucks, they evacuated the embassy buildings that continued to shake from constant aftershocks and immediately launched an emergency mechanism.

An emergency command center was set up with Chinese Ambassador to Japan Cheng Yonghua as the chief.

Near midnight, the Chinese embassy decided to send its first working team to the worst-hit Miyagi Prefecture to find quake-affected Chinese nationals.

"We will strive to fulfil our task," Liu Jingshi, a consul at the Chinese embassy and also chief of the working team, said before departure.

The expressway in Tokyo was closed after the massive quake and the embassy staff drove slowly along national highways in grid-locked traffic. "Several aftershocks occurred when we were driving and the road and our car shook violently. We even saw electric poles swing back and forth during the quake," Liu said.

"We had to drive very carefully as the quake caused some large cracks in the road surface," he said.

After 19 hours of continuous driving, the relief team finally arrived at Miyagi's Sendai City, which was enveloped in total darkness due to power failure.

With electric torches in hand, the embassy staff went straight to quake-shelters and universities to locate and help Chinese citizens.

They organized an orderly evacuation, with priority given to the elderly, children and women.

Amid an escalating threat from radiation leaking from the Fukushima power plant and hampered by heavy snow, they wasted no time arranging for buses to evacuate Chinese nationals, writing down information about each of the evacuees.

On March 15, they managed to get some 300 Chinese citizens out of the quake-ravaged areas within two hours in the afternoon. A total of 1,800 people were successfully evacuated from Sendai after another four days of work.


The northeastern Iwate prefecture was also hard hit by the magnitude-9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami.

The prefecture, where more than 700 Chinese interns worked in local aquatic product-processing companies, struggled with power shortages and were isolated by disrupted communications, suspended flight and ferry services and the shutdown of a road tunnel.

"I was very worried while watching reports on the earthquake, and I almost couldn't wait to rush to the quake-hit zones to help those in need," said Hu Shengcai, consul general of the Chinese consulate general in Sapporo.

Hu and several other consulate staff rushed to Iwate right after the ferry resumed service when they learned most of the Chinese interns there were stranded amid freezing temperatures and without basic necessities such as enough clothing and proper shoes.

Hu had pledged that the consulate general in Sapporo would try its best to bring Chinese nationals to safety, and he lived up to his words.

Upon arrival at the prefecture, the consulate team found that ruins, rubble and debris were all that was left in the seaside area of the devastated city of Ofunato, which was almost wiped out by the catastrophic quake and massive tsunami.

They immediately set up hotlines with the government of Iwate prefecture, the disaster management department of local police, and the intern dispatch department.

They also visited every shelter in the prefecture, searching for Chinese citizens, and arranged buses to pick up interns from the worst-hit zones.

There were many touching stories during his relief and evacuation work in Iwate, but the Chinese consul said what he remembered most was a small Chinese knot pendant, a gift an Chinese intern gave him before she left for home.

"I can always remember the gratitude that filled her eyes," he said.

After days of work, they helped bring back home some 666 Chinese citizens from Iwate, including 600 interns.


"Please let me go and help them," Zhong Fali, a consul at the Chinese General Consulate in Niigata, said, volunteering to bring back 18 Chinese interns who were stranded at locations less than 20 km from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, where radioactive leaks had been confirmed.

Other Chinese consuls, including Lu Daming, Hong Ye, Zhang Zhihao and Chen Minghuang also went to the areas near the nuclear plant to help evacuate Chinese nationals.

"We did not have time for fear, and what we've done is only fulfilling our jobs," they said after helping a total of 5,300 Chinese nationals return home from the worst-hit areas within 10 days.

"At the time of crisis, we will do everything we can" to help people, said Hong Ye, who handled hundreds of passports and visas every day during his quake relief and evacuation work.

Source: Xinhua
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