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Foreign search teams rush to Japan after quake

by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) March 12, 2011
International search and rescue teams rushed to Japan Saturday in the wake of a huge 8.9-magnitude earthquake and devastating tsunami, while one of Afghanistan's most violent provinces offered $50,000 in aid.

A 66-strong Japanese team which has spent more than two weeks searching the rubble left by last month's 6.3-magnitude quake in Christchurch in New Zealand was making hasty preparations to return home to confront the unfolding tragedy.

The United States said it was sending nearly 150 rescue workers to the disaster zone, among them a team from Los Angeles that had only returned from New Zealand two days ago.

From Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, to the Dalai Lama and entertainer Lady Gaga, the world has rallied to support Japan, where tsunami waves up to 10 metres (33 feet) high rolled across the low-lying northeast on Friday, washing away everything in their path.

Governments around the world offered their help, with United States President Barack Obama ordering emergency aid, including an aircraft carrier, to Japan after the catastrophe he described as "simply heartbreaking."

The US Agency for International Development said it was sending two teams of some 72 personnel, dogs and around 75 tonnes of rescue equipment each.

Meanwhile China's Red Cross also pledged 1 million yuan ($150,000) to its Japanese counterpart, state media reported.

With more than 1,000 people feared dead and authorities scrambling to prevent meltdown at two nuclear plants, Japanese officials have asked other nations to provide sniffer dogs to help search for trapped survivors.

Australia, South Korea and Singapore will all send dogs and search and rescue teams, their governments said Saturday as they expressed their condolences to Tokyo.

Britain will send a specialist team of search and rescue experts to Japan the government said.

Following a direct appeal from the Japanese government, Britain will dispatch a team of 59 fire service search and rescue specialists, two rescue dogs and a medical support team to join the international relief effort.

The team will take up to 11 tonnes of specialist rescue equipment, including heavy lifting and cutting equipment.

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said his government was "prepared to throw anything and everything at this", as his country deployed 72 search and rescue experts.

India, which was hard hit by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, said it stood in "full solidarity" with the people of Japan, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh telling his counterpart Naoto Kan "our resources are at your disposal."

In a message to the Japanese prime minister the Dalai Lama, who has a huge following among Japanese Buddhists, expressed his "sadness" at the catastrophe and praised Japan's high level of disaster preparedness for saving lives.

"On behalf of the residents of Kandahar, mayor Ghulam Haidar Hamidi announced $50,000 in aid to the people affected by earthquakes and tsunami in Japan," a statement from Kandahar's provincial governor said.

New Zealand, which had been helped by Japanese rescuers who sifted through Christchurch rubble for survivors, will send 48 urban search and rescue staff to the earthquake-zone -- one-third of its search and rescue personnel.

The United Nations has said that about 60 international teams from more than 45 states were on alert to assist Japan if asked.

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Japanese search team leaves N.Z. for own crisis
Wellington (AFP) March 12, 2011
A Japanese search team working in the earthquake-devastated New Zealand city of Christchurch made hasty preparations to return home Saturday to deal with the crisis in their own country. An advance party of New Zealand Urban Search and Rescue staff would also be sent to Japan immediately to help with earthquake recovery efforts, Prime Minister John Key said. The 8.9-magnitude quake that ... read more

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