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Japan thanks US rescuers, urges Americans to return

by Staff Writers
Los Angeles (AFP) April 26, 2011
Japan's consul general in Los Angeles thanked local rescuers who provided emergency help after last month's earthquake and tsunami -- and urged American tourists to return to his country.

Junichi Ihara voiced Japan's "sincere gratitude" for the Los Angeles-based rescuers, "one of the first to mobilize and spring into action when the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami hit.

"While many people, including those in my office, were still struggling to understand what had just happened, the (team) was already en route," he told members of the LA County Urban Search and Rescue Team.

Many of the the LA rescuers had only just returned home after the magnitude 6.3 New Zealand earthquake in February when they were dispatched to Japan following the killer March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Ihara said tourism was an important element of economic recovery after the disaster, which left more than 14,000 people dead and over 11,000 missing, with over 100,000 still sheltered at evacuation centers.

"We need tourists from abroad... You are all welcome," the Japanese diplomat said. "We are braced for a long period of hard work and continuous struggle."

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