Tourists return home from Hokkaido

EMERGENCY RESPONSE::Taiwan’s representative office in Sapporo helped stranded tourists book plane tickets and rent cars, earning praise from a Japanese reporter

Staff writer, with CNA, TOKYO

Tue, Sep 11, 2018 - Page 4

Taiwanese travelers who were stranded on Japan’s northern Hokkaido island following a magnitude 6.7 earthquake on Thursday have returned home, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Sunday.

Nearly 1,500 Taiwanese, who were forced to delay their return because of the earthquake that killed 44 people and injured more than 600, had flown home, the ministry said in a statement.

Following the earthquake, staff at the ministry’s representative office in Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido, set up an emergency response center to answer telephone calls from Taiwanese affected by the disaster, it said.

A Japanese reporter based in Hokkaido said that the Taiwanese office was the only foreign representative office or consulate in the prefecture to offer its nationals such emergency assistance.

Office head Chou Shyue-yow (周學佑) expressed his gratitude to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Tokyo, which sent two staff members and lighting equipment to help emergency services.

Although the Sapporo office had to suspend its operations when power and water were cut after the earthquake, Chou and his staff turned the office into an emergency shelter for Taiwanese who had no place to stay, the ministry said.

Representative to Japan Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) on Friday flew to Hokkaido to oversee operations at the Sapporo office.

Hsieh took to Facebook on Sunday to praise the staff in Sapporo for helping Taiwanese book hotels and plane tickets and rent cars.

The emergency response center worked around the clock for more than 60 hours, the ministry said.

The Sapporo office was to resume normal operations yesterday morning, Hsieh said, adding that his office in Tokyo would convene a meeting to review post-disaster relief after criticism over previous efforts.

Netizens criticized Hsieh after a post on the Professional Technology Temple accused his office of failing to help Taiwanese stranded at Osaka’s Kansai International Airport following massive flooding caused by Typhoon Jebi on Tuesday last week.

Several Chinese-language reports have said the Chinese embassy in Tokyo sent 15 tour buses to evacuate Chinese from the airport.

Chinese state-run newspaper the Global Times on Thursday last week reported that some Taiwanese asked to board the buses and were told by the Chinese tourists they could only do so as long as they declared themselves to be Chinese.

It was later revealed that no vehicles were allowed to carry passengers from the airport other than its own shuttle buses.