Following a devastating 8.9 earthquake in Japan hundreds are turning up dead and St Lucians at home are wondering whether their loved ones are safe, especially since news broke that Taiwan may have been affected by the quake. The STAR was able to contact Taiwanese Ambassador Tom Chou who assured us all is well in his home country where there are some thirty St Lucian students on scholarships.
Chou told the STAR the tsunami warning yesterday was more out of precaution than out of unbridled fear.
Said Chou: “Soon after the earthquake hit Japan, about 2:30am St Lucia time, less than an hour after my government immediately announced a tsunami alert. We waited for a few hours. My government did not feel the tsunami would hit Taiwan so we lifted the advisory.”
Additionally, Chou said Taiwan has not been affected by the tsunami and so far there has been no damage to property or loss of life. “We have very advanced equipment to monitor the situation with earthquakes and tsunamis so we are quite sure that we will not be affected,” Chou said.
Chou sent heartfelt gratitude to St Lucians, especially Commerce Minister Tessa Mangal and Micoud North MP Jeannine Compton-Antoine who both called to express their concern for the island republic.
Meanwhile, the STAR made contact with one of the St Lucian students in Taiwan. Former news reporter Shervon Alfred said the mood is calm in the country right now and confirmed Ambassador Chou’s assessment that the country was not affected.
“The government issued a voluntary evacuation for people in coastal areas shortly after the quake. They were concerned about a possible tsunami but only small waves washed up on the Taiwanese shore,” Alfred told the STAR.
He went further to say that as far as he knows, his St Lucian counterparts are in good health.
As for our St Lucians in Japan, the STAR has not been able to get an official count of the number of St Lucians residing in Japan. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was not able to assist in that regard.
The Ministry of Education has confirmed it has two students on scholarship studying in Japan. They are both confirmed safe.
Likewise, the Japan Overseas Co-op Volunteers told the STAR they have two local ministry officials on a three-month course in Japan. Both officials are safe.
However, St Lucians who have taken up teaching and other occupations in Japan have not been accounted for as yet.
As we go to press Japan’s death toll is at 300 with 530 missing and hundreds are injured. Suggestions are that the death toll could be over 1000.