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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Overseas aid offers flow in

Help is arriving from across the globe as nations vow assistance


Staff writer

Offers of help have been streaming in from abroad in the wake of the massive earthquake and tsunami that wiped whole towns off the map in the northeast.

Day by day, international rescue teams have been arriving in the country. So far, hundreds of rescuers have arrived from South Korea, Singapore, China, the U.S., Germany, Switzerland, Britain, France, Australia, New Zealand, the United Nations, Russia, Taiwan and Mexico.

A 12-member team from Mongolia was set to arrive at Narita International Airport later Tuesday.

U.S. President Barack Obama said Monday morning in Washington that he was "heartbroken by the images of devastation in Japan" and reiterated the strong U.S. commitment to providing assistance.

But explosions at a nuclear plant in Fukushima Prefecture may affect rescuers' activities. A team from Mexico that was heading north after arriving Monday turned back because of the explosions and was in Tokyo on Tuesday, the Foreign Ministry's Mexico, Central America and Caribbean Division said.

Meanwhile, 102 countries and regions, as well as 14 international organizations, had offered their support as of Tuesday afternoon. Most recently, nations including Afghanistan, Rwanda and Gabon expressed their intention to send assistance.

Bodies such as the Palestinian Authority, Asia Development Bank and the International Atomic Energy Agency also had pledged support.

"I want to reiterate America's support for the people of Japan, who are some of our closest friends and allies," Obama said before a speech at a school in Virginia.

"And I've said directly to the prime minister of Japan, Prime Minister (Naoto) Kan, that the United States will continue to offer any assistance we can as Japan recovers from multiple disasters, and we will stand with the people of Japan in the difficult days ahead."

Late Monday afternoon, Kan spoke with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev who said his government "was prepared to cooperate not only in the form of humanitarian aid but also in energy supply."

According to the Foreign Ministry, Kan also spoke by telephone with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, whose country suffered its own devastating earthquake late last month in Christchurch, where some Japanese nationals remain missing. Key said his government was prepared to give additional assistance and that Japan should not hesitate to ask.

"All the people of New Zealand are shocked and distressed by the earthquake in Japan, which occurred soon after the earthquake in Christchurch," Key was quoted as saying. "Japan's severe situation may continue for several weeks or months. However, I believe that under the leadership of Prime Minister Kan the people of Japan will take a strong step to put this tragedy behind and proceed to a path toward the reconstruction."

The government has repeatedly expressed gratitude to the international community and has said it is sorting out the situation in the disaster area and is accepting help as needed.

"We are truly grateful for the support that so many countries have offered at a time of what can be called a national crisis for Japan," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said earlier in the week. "In order to make use of everyone's support and good will . . . we are trying to sort out the reports (on the situation in the disaster areas) and are asking for their support."


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