Tuesday, March 15, 2011

30 Pinoys stranded in Fukushima: embassy official

abs-cbnNEWS.com


MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Embassy in Japan on Sunday confirmed that 30 Filipino seafarers are currently stranded at a hotel in Fukushima with no food, water and electricity.

"We are very certain there are Filipinos in the Fukushima area... As a matter of fact, we just advised the [Department of] Foreign Affairs [about them]," said Manolo Lopez, the country's ambassador to Japan, in an interview on ANC's “Headlines” on Sunday morning.

He said they are now "billeted in a hotel… although there is no food, water and electricity."

Lopez assured that the embassy is working to get them out of the area as soon as possible and bring them to "some other safer place."

"We have advised the authorities how to get them out of there. Maybe [bring them to] Tokyo or some other safer place. Ito ang ating priority ngayon," he said.

He added: "Individually, I think it would be very difficult for them to make their way out. The roads going to these areas are not yet open for regular traffic."

Lopez said water and electricity in many parts of Tokyo have not been restored and food supplies are dwindling.

'No Pinoy casualty yet'

Lopez also said that, as of the moment, he has not received reports of Filipino casualties in the Japan quake.

He said the embassy is "planning to send a team next week… as soon as given a clearance to check the other areas of northeastern part of Japan."

"The Internet seems to be the most efficient way of communicating with our kababayans in that area because telecommunications are still very poor," he added.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, there are a total of 305,972 Filipinos in Japan.

Last Friday, an 8.9-magnitude earthquake shook Japan, causing a massive tsunami that engulfed towns and cities on Japan's northeastern coast.

The earthquake was the fifth most powerful to hit the world in the past century.

It also damaged Japan’s nuclear plant. The government has already ordered an evacuation for tens of thousands of residents living 20 kilometers around the Fukushima plant.

Appeal for help

Meanwhile, a Filipino living in Tokyo said she received an email from a sibling of one of the 30 Filipino seafarers stranded in Fukushima.

Olive Akatsu said she called the Philippine embassy to report the matter, and was told that embassy personnel are already coordinating with local officials to enter Fukushima.

Akatsu, who has been living in Japan for 23 years, also recounted to ANC her ordeal during Friday's quake. Akatsu was on the 25th floor of a building when the quake happened.

"Kinakabahan ako nang husto at sa palagay ko babagsak na ‘yong buong building sa lakas ng tunog at uga na nararamdaman namin noong time na ‘yon. Wala na akong ginawa kundi magdasal at manalangin," she said, adding:

"Inaalala ko ‘yong mga kamag-anak ko, wala ako sa pamilya ko noong time na ‘yon kaya sila ang nasa isip ko."

Akatsu advised Filipinos with friends or relatives in Japan to contact the Philippine embassy to check on their condition. –Reports from ANC, Agence France-Presse and Reuters

Barak's wife charged over illegal Filipino worker

Agence France-Presse


JERUSALEM - Israeli immigration authorities on Sunday filed charges against the wife of Israel's defense minister for allegedly illegally employing a Filipina house cleaner, local media reported.

Haaretz newspaper's website said that Nili Priel, wife of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, was charged with illegally hiring the woman, identified only as Virginia, to clean the couple's luxury Tel Aviv apartment, without an employment visa, medical insurance or contract.

It said that if convicted, she could be fined 100,000 shekels (20,000 euros, $28,000) on each charge or face imprisonment.

No trial date was set.

Barak has said he was unaware the woman was employed in his home and he will not face legal action.

It is illegal in Israel to employ foreign workers as domestic help, and the government has launched a campaign to crack down on the practice.

4th Pinoy fatality in NZ quake identified

abs-cbnNEWS.com


MANILA, Philippines – New Zealand authorities have identified the fourth Filipino fatality in last month's earthquake in Christchurch.

The latest Filipino fatality was identified as 38-year-old Lalaine Collado Agatep, police said in a press statement.

Five more victims from Japan, and New Zealand were been identified by local police on Monday, bringing the total number of names released to 123.

The other Filipinos confirmed to have died in the quake are Jewel Francisco, Ivy Jane Cabunilas, and Erica Avir Reyes Nora.

Over 165 died in the 6.3 magnitude tremor that struck Christchurch last February 22.

Philippines tests Japanese food for radiation

abs-cbnNEWS.com


MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) - Several Asian governments including the Philippines said Monday they would screen food imported from Japan for radiation after one of the country's nuclear power plants was damaged by a massive earthquake and tsunami.

Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office Secretary Ricky Carandang said President Aquino met with the heads of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Health, Department of Budget and Management, National Security Council, Presidential Management Staff and the Office of the Executive Secretary to make sure that the Philippines would be safe from any possible effects of the nuclear crisis in Japan.

“Just as a precaution, imports from Japan, mostly foodstuffs, will be checked for levels of radiation,” Carandang told reporters after the meeting in MalacaƱang.

The PNRI will be in charge of the tests because the Department of Agriculture checks agricultural products while the DOH is in charge of processed food.

“I’m not sure how quickly they can get it done but at the soonest possible time,” Carandang said.

But Carandang said there was no plan to screen any travelers from Japan at this time.

Carandang said the President and all the other government officials received information that there was no nuclear meltdown that occurred.

“The information that we have was that there was no meltdown, that the worst of it has been contained. So according to (DOST) Secretary (Mario) Montejo, there is no immediate threat to the country right now from the explosion that happened at the nuclear plant. I think the nature of the explosion has been covered already by international media— the explosions occurred not in the reactor but outside of the reactor. It was hydrogen explosion that apparently did not affect the reactor so that’s very good news for everyone,” Carandang said.

Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan said they would take precautionary measures after two explosions at the aging Fukushima plant 250 kilometers northeast of Tokyo.

"As far as radiation is concerned, I think the most at-risk articles are those fresh products, perhaps dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables," Hong Kong's Secretary for Food and Health York Chow told reporters.

He said authorities in the southern Chinese territory were "monitoring the situation and also doing the checking at the importation venues to ascertain that they have not been affected".

"In case we detect anything, of course we will ban those products from Hong Kong."

Singapore's food regulator said: "As a precautionary measure, AVA (the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore) will monitor Japanese produce based on source and potential risk of contamination.

"Samples will be taken for testing for radiation. Fresh produce will have priority. AVA will continue to closely monitor the situation and its developments," it said in a statement.

AVA said the bulk of Japanese imports arrive by sea, but Japanese restaurants in Singapore routinely use air freight to fly in produce such as raw fish -- integral to sushi and sashimi -- to ensure its freshness and quality.

Land-starved Singapore's total food import bill in 2010 was Sg$9.29 billion ($7.31 billion), according to official statistics, but no breakdown for food imports from Japan was available.

Singapore's total imports from Japan reached Sg$33.3 billion last year.

Malaysian health authorities said they were taking "precautionary measures" and were closely monitoring food imports from Japan to ensure they were free of contamination.

Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai said Malaysia imports about 48,500 tonnes of food from Japan every year, including fish, fruits and cereal products.

Taiwan's Food and Drug Administration also said it would test food from Japan for radiation.

Thailand's public health ministry said it was not yet checking food imports from Japan, but was "monitoring the situation closely".

Japan's nuclear safety agency has ruled out the possibility of a Chernobyl-style accident at the damaged nuclear plant, according to national strategy minister Koichiro Genba.

But a US aircraft carrier and other ships deployed for relief efforts in the wake of Friday's quake and tsunami shifted their position after detecting low-level radiation from the malfunctioning plant. With reports from The Philippine Star and Agence France-Presse

Other Headlines
Philippines tests Japanese food for radiation

abs-cbnNEWS.com


MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) - Several Asian governments including the Philippines said Monday they would screen food imported from Japan for radiation after one of the country's nuclear power plants was damaged by a massive earthquake and tsunami.

Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office Secretary Ricky Carandang said President Aquino met with the heads of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Health, Department of Budget and Management, National Security Council, Presidential Management Staff and the Office of the Executive Secretary to make sure that the Philippines would be safe from any possible effects of the nuclear crisis in Japan.

“Just as a precaution, imports from Japan, mostly foodstuffs, will be checked for levels of radiation,” Carandang told reporters after the meeting in MalacaƱang.

The PNRI will be in charge of the tests because the Department of Agriculture checks agricultural products while the DOH is in charge of processed food.

“I’m not sure how quickly they can get it done but at the soonest possible time,” Carandang said.

But Carandang said there was no plan to screen any travelers from Japan at this time.

Carandang said the President and all the other government officials received information that there was no nuclear meltdown that occurred.

“The information that we have was that there was no meltdown, that the worst of it has been contained. So according to (DOST) Secretary (Mario) Montejo, there is no immediate threat to the country right now from the explosion that happened at the nuclear plant. I think the nature of the explosion has been covered already by international media— the explosions occurred not in the reactor but outside of the reactor. It was hydrogen explosion that apparently did not affect the reactor so that’s very good news for everyone,” Carandang said.

Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan said they would take precautionary measures after two explosions at the aging Fukushima plant 250 kilometers northeast of Tokyo.

"As far as radiation is concerned, I think the most at-risk articles are those fresh products, perhaps dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables," Hong Kong's Secretary for Food and Health York Chow told reporters.

He said authorities in the southern Chinese territory were "monitoring the situation and also doing the checking at the importation venues to ascertain that they have not been affected".

"In case we detect anything, of course we will ban those products from Hong Kong."

Singapore's food regulator said: "As a precautionary measure, AVA (the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore) will monitor Japanese produce based on source and potential risk of contamination.

"Samples will be taken for testing for radiation. Fresh produce will have priority. AVA will continue to closely monitor the situation and its developments," it said in a statement.

AVA said the bulk of Japanese imports arrive by sea, but Japanese restaurants in Singapore routinely use air freight to fly in produce such as raw fish -- integral to sushi and sashimi -- to ensure its freshness and quality.

Land-starved Singapore's total food import bill in 2010 was Sg$9.29 billion ($7.31 billion), according to official statistics, but no breakdown for food imports from Japan was available.

Singapore's total imports from Japan reached Sg$33.3 billion last year.

Malaysian health authorities said they were taking "precautionary measures" and were closely monitoring food imports from Japan to ensure they were free of contamination.

Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai said Malaysia imports about 48,500 tonnes of food from Japan every year, including fish, fruits and cereal products.

Taiwan's Food and Drug Administration also said it would test food from Japan for radiation.

Thailand's public health ministry said it was not yet checking food imports from Japan, but was "monitoring the situation closely".

Japan's nuclear safety agency has ruled out the possibility of a Chernobyl-style accident at the damaged nuclear plant, according to national strategy minister Koichiro Genba.

But a US aircraft carrier and other ships deployed for relief efforts in the wake of Friday's quake and tsunami shifted their position after detecting low-level radiation from the malfunctioning plant. With reports from The Philippine Star and Agence France-Presse

Pinoys in Japan find refuge in shelters

abs-cbnNEWS.com


Aftershocks continue to rattle Filipinos in Japan

SENDAI, Japan – Filipinos who escaped the wrath of the magnitude-9 earthquake and the ensuing tsunami said strong aftershocks have forced them to abandon their homes.

Nunally Suico, who was born in Cebu City, is now living in a shelter with his son. She had been a resident of Sendai City for 33 years.

Another Filipina, Cecilia Vilia, was with her son and sister at the same shelter.

Vilia, who is originally from Bacoor, Cavite, said they are scared to go back to their homes because of the continuous earthquakes.

Other Filipinos also found shelter in another evacuation center in the city.

At the Kamachi Dori Elementary School, ABS-CBN News found Carmelita Joy Mogami, who has been living in Sendai for 18 years.

She was accompanied by another Filipina, Marie Embrada.

The two met at the evacuation center, which has served as their home for the last 4 days.

Three other Filipinas – Marita Goto, Lucy Kanazawa, and Helen Ono – were in another shelter.

They stay at the evacuation center but often return to heir homes nearby.

Meanwhile, downtown Sendai has yet to recover from the calamity.

Disaster survivors said their major problem is the growing scarcity of food and water.

It took one hour for Filipinos who are helping ABS-CBN News to get food at a local corner store.

Train services remain suspended while some public buses are now running. – Report from Royce Pellerin, ABS-CBN News contributor

Some OFWs back from Japan, recount ordeal

abs-cbnNEWS.com


MANILA, Philippines – Some overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from Japan have begun arriving here, carrying with them the horrors they saw and experienced when a major earthquake and tsunami hit the country.

Yolanda Ouchi, Loida Dabue and Ricardo Pesino were among the OFWs from Japan who arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport early Sunday.

They told ABS-CBN News that they were glad to be home unscathed after Friday's 8.9 magnitude quake, one of the largest ever recorded, unleashed a terrifying tsunami that engulfed towns and cities on Japan's northeastern coast.

Ouchi was teary eyed as she narrated their experience in Japan. She said their house was located 4 hours away from Honshu island, one of hard hit areas, but they were still traumatized.

She said when the major earthquake and tsunami struck, she thought they were going to die.

"Iba na siya, biglang lumindol tapos ang lakas… Sabi ko, ‘Huli na yata namin ito,’" Ouchi said.

Dabue said she was shocked when she saw on television the massive destruction.

"Awa… noong napanood ko sa TV siyempre na-shock kami. Parang na-recall ko ‘yong napanood ko sa movie. I just stopped watching kasi hindi ko kaya," Dabue said.

She said she was grateful that she and her family were unharmed.

After the earthquake, a traumatized Pesino said he has no plans of returning to Japan after 25 years of staying there.

“’Yong lindol sa Japan araw-araw. Talagang normal na ‘yon. Pero hindi ganoon kalakas at katindi. Super earthquake talaga," he said.

More Filipinos from Japan are expected to come home as some flights to and from the battered country have normalized.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said there are a total of 305,972 Filipinos in Japan. -Report from Jerome Lantin, ABS-CBN News. With Agence France-Presse

Binay vows gov't will help OFWs in Japan

By Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News


MANILA - Vice President Jejomar Binay appealed for calm in the midst of a large-scale disaster in Japan on Friday.

A tsunami warning was immediately issued in several coastal provinces in the country facing the eastern seaboard after the quake that affected much of Japan.

The tsunami arrived in Philippine territory past 5 pm.

"The Filipino people can rest assured that all concerned government agencies are already on alert and are ready to extend immediate assistance should the need arise," the Vice President said in a statement.

"I am likewise assuring overseas Filipino workers in Tokyo and their families here at home that we are coordinating with all government agencies concerned to be able to react to the needs of affected Filipinos in Japan," he added.
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