Taiwanese stranded in Hokkaido return home

2018/09/09 20:45:36 fontsize-small fontsize-default fontsize-big
Taiwanese stranded in Hokkaido return home

Tokyo, Sept. 9 (CNA) Taiwanese tourists who became stranded in Hokkaido prefecture, the northernmost of Japan's main islands, following a magnitude-6.7 earthquake Thursday, have returned to Taiwan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Sunday.

According to data from Taiwan's Tourism Bureau, 712 tourists in 23 tour groups from Taiwan were forced to delay their return home because of the quake, which reports said resulted in 39 fatalities and more than 600 injuries.

Following the quake, representatives at the MOFA office in Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido, immediately set up an emergency response center to answer phone calls from Taiwanese affected by the disaster.

As of Sunday afternoon, the office with only five staff, had answered more than 160 calls, helped 129 Taiwan nationals and coordinated with Taiwanese airliners to provide over 1,100 seats for Taiwanese to return home.

As of Sunday, more than 700 Taiwanese had flown home, a MOFA statement said.

A Japanese reporter based in Hokkaido told CNA that according to his understanding, Taiwan's office in Sapporo was the only foreign representative office or consulate in the prefecture to offer its nationals such emergency assistance.

Chou Shyue-yow (周學佑), head of Taiwan's representative office in Sapporo, told CNA that he was grateful Taiwan's representative office in Tokyo sent two staff with lighting equipment to help with the emergency service.

Following the quake, although the office was unable to operate for a time due to the lack of power and water, Chou and his staff turned the space into an emergency shelter for Taiwanese who could not find a place to stay due to the earthquake.

Taiwan's top envoy to Japan, Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), flew from Tokyo to Hokkaido to oversee the operation of the emergency center Friday.

On his Facebook page Sunday, Hsieh praised the efforts of staff in Hokkaido, for helping Taiwan nationals book hotels, find plane tickets, and even rent cars.

According to the MOFA, Sapporo's emergency response center worked around the clock for more than 60 hours.

Hsieh said the Sapporo office is scheduled to resume normal operation on Monday morning. His office in Tokyo will convene a meeting Monday to review post-disaster relief work that has previously been criticized by many.

Earlier, the diplomat was slammed on social media for being unprofessional after staff at Taiwan's representative office in Japan were accused in a PTT post of being reluctant to help Taiwanese in Osaka who sought assistance after massive flooding caused by Typhoon Jebi led to the closure of Kansai International Airport Tuesday.

PTT is one of the most popular bulletin boards in Taiwan.

Meanwhile, several opposition Kuomintang lawmakers denounced Hsieh at a press conference in Taipei Friday for failing to help Taiwanese in need.

(By Yang Ming-chu and Joseph Yeh)

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