Sat, Mar 19, 2011 - Page 1 News List

Government vows to help Taiwanese still in Japan

By Shih Hsiu-chuan and Rich Chang  /  Staff Reporters

The government yesterday pledged to make every effort to evacuate Taiwanese still stranded in disaster-hit areas in Japan following complaints that it had done little to help compatriots leaving the stricken country.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Su Chen-ching (蘇震清) said a constituent in Pingtung asked him to help her daughter in Fukushima Prefecture, after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) rejected her request.

“Her daughter has been stuck in Fukushima all this time. The mother was so worried about her and helpless as the ministry told her that her daughter would have to get out of Fukushima on her own,” Su told Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) during a question-and-answer session on the legislative floor yesterday.

In response, Wu said “there were things that the government was powerless to help with despite being sympathetic to the situation people found themselves in.”

Accusing the government of being too passive in its handling of the matter, Su said that it stood in sharp contrast to other countries which have demonstrated how much they care about the safety of their citizens by arranging charter flights for them out of Japan.

According to the ministry, approximately 600 Taiwanese in the main disaster areas of northeast Japan remain unaccounted for.

Separately, a Taiwanese named Cheng Yu-jung (鄭郁蓉) told a press conference held by DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) yesterday that the government had offered little help to Taiwanese in Japan.

Cheng said her four-member family wanted to return to Taiwan from Sendai after the earthquake, but they found it impossible to leave and no MOFA representative in Japan had contacted them.

Cheng said she later learned from a local Chinese student association that there might be tickets from Yamagata Airport in Yamagata prefecture to Tokyo, and was very lucky to be able to book tickets online and have enough gas left in her car to drive two hours to the airport.

“It is a very long way to Tokyo. Why are Taiwanese compatriots inferior to Chinese or Libyans [whose governments have helped their nationals to evacuate from the disaster areas]?” she said.

Cheng said that the ministry should have sent vehicles to pick up Taiwanese stuck in the disaster areas and chartered planes to fly them back to Taiwan. It should also release a list of all Taiwanese in Japan online, to help those still looking for loved ones and friends, she added.

Addressing these complaints, Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy Yang (楊進添) said at a separate setting yesterday that the ministry’s staffers in Japan had encountered transportation difficulties in areas severely hit by the earthquake and tsunami.

“But we will try every means possible to help [stranded -Taiwanese]. Where staffers have been able to reach stranded Taiwanese, they have asked Taiwanese associations nearby to offer assistance,” Yang said.

He reiterated that Taiwanese nationals in need of help should contact the ministry’s offices in Japan.

The government did not provide charter flights to fly Taiwanese out of Japan as some other countries did because the number of daily flights between Taipei and Japan is sufficient to meet demand, Yang said.

“There are a total of 17 flights daily, and none of those flights was fully booked in recent days, with about 20 percent of seats unsold on each flight,” Yang said.

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