Sat, Mar 19, 2011 - Page 3 News List

JAPAN DISASTER: US evacuees from Japan arrive in Taiwan

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff Reporter

US citizens line up as staff of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) check their data after 96 US citizens living in Japan were flown into Taiwan early yesterday morning by the AIT. All accommodation costs will be covered by the AIT.

Photo: Yao Kai-shiu, Taipei Times

Following the US’ lead, Australia has requested that Taiwan allow its citizens in Japan to enter the country as part of its plan to evacuate Australians from the disaster-struck country.

Taiwan has agreed to the request, presented yesterday, out of humanitarian concern, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) spokesman James Chang (章計平) said.

The Australia Commerce and Industry Office in Taiwan was unable to be reached for comment on details of the plan, such as the arrival time and the number of Australian citizens to be evacuated from Japan to Taipei.

Meanwhile, a second charter flight arranged by the US government with about 300 Americans on board was scheduled to arrive in Taipei at 00:45am today.

Early yesterday morning, 97 Americans arrived in Taipei, mainly families and dependents of US government employees and some US civilians.

All members of the group were tested for radiation following their arrival, but none were found to have abnormal levels of radioactivity, sources said.

Dozens of American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) employees were at the airport to help evacuees get through immigration and customs before helping them check in to hotels.

AIT spokeswoman Sheila Paskman said in a telephone interview that most of the evacuated Americans might stay in Taiwan for one or two days until they arrange flights back to the US.

There were about 190,000 Americans in Japan before the disaster struck on March 11, Paskman said.

The US Department of State on Thursday authorized the voluntary departure of family members and dependents of US personnel in Tokyo, Yokohama and Nagoya, providing charter flights to either Taipei or Seoul.

Paskman said it was not clear at the moment how many Americans would be brought to Taipei as it is arranging the charter flights day-by-day, depending on the number of people who wish to leave Japan.

The AIT suspended routine visa services for Taiwanese applicants yesterday so its visa officers could assist their compatriots at the -airport, but it is continuing the service for applicants who qualify as emergency cases.

“It remains unknown when the visa service can be resumed. It all depends on how many flights are coming to Taiwan,” Paskman said, adding that the AIT might decide a date over the weekend.

Yesterday morning, Paskman showed up at the front gate of the AIT complex, apologizing to people who were not aware of the suspension in advance.

Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) told lawmakers at the legislative that he had asked MOFA to help the AIT handle the entry of the Americans so that some of the AIT’s staff members could resume visa services for Taiwanese nationals.


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