Hundreds of Australians feared stranded in Japan's quake zone

23:24, March 12, 2011      

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The Australian federal government on Saturday said they are trying to contact hundreds of Australians in Japan, after the devastating earthquake and tsunami.

A massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit Japan on Friday, unleashing a 10-meter high tsunami that did extensive damage.

About 24 hours after the disaster, Japan's National Police Agency said 503 people had been confirmed dead and 740 missing, with 1,040 injured in the disaster. But the death toll is expected to rise, possibly to above 1,000.

According to a statement released by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT), there are 2,115 Australians registered in Japan, with around 160 registered in the most affected areas.

But Acting Prime Minister said the actual number is more than that, with an estimated 11,000 Australians live in Japan, mostly in Tokyo and Osaka.

So far, DFAT has confirmed 703 Australians in Japan are safe, and the department is still trying to track down the rest of the Australians that are feared stranded in quake zone.

Earlier, Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd said he was " deeply worried" about Australians living in quake-hit Sendai, a popular area with English language teachers.

Meanwhile, the federal government's National Security Committee of Cabinet on Saturday held an emergency meeting to respond to a request from Japan for immediate search and rescue support.

Seventy-six search and rescue specialists from New South Wales and a number of sniffer dogs from Queensland left for Japan on Saturday by Defense planes.

According to New South Wales state emergency operations controller and deputy police commissioner Dave Owens, the team's primary response will be to save lives.

"You saw the response in Christchurch, the absolute joy of these people [as they] saved people's lives, that's what we want to do, hence we're so quick to deploy," he told ABC News.

Swan said 10 extra consular officials will also be deployed.

"Last night was like a nightmare for the Japanese people," he told reporters in Canberra.

"But the waves that destroyed these Japanese towns will be followed by waves of support from their friends here and around the world. And they will surely need that assistance."

Also, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said Japanese nationals stranded in Australia will be offered visa extensions until they can get home.

It estimates there are about 11,000 Japanese tourists and more than 6,000 Japanese students in Australia.

So far there are no reports of Australian casualties.

Source: Xinhua

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