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 struck off the eastern coast of Japan on Friday whipped up a tsunami that crashed into the country, wiping out towns with fears the death toll could reach more than 1,000.
Key said six New Zealanders would leave Saturday and another 42 would probably follow on Sunday after a request from Tokyo.
Japan sent 66 search and rescue specialists and three rescue dogs to Christchurch after the February 22 quake, which is believed to have killed more than 200 people.
They focused their work on the CTV building in the central city where up to 28 Japanese are believed to have been trapped along with other foreign students in an English language school.
"My thoughts go out to all the people of Japan at this time," New Zealand Civil Defence controller Steve Brazier said when the Japanese search team announced they were cutting short their work in Christchurch.
"The Japanese urban search and rescue team made an invaluable contribution to the earthquake rescue effort. They came to New Zealand without hesitation and worked tirelessly over the past two-and-a-half weeks.
Meanwhile, a Japanese women's hockey team on tour in New Zealand said it will keep playing after learning no family members of the players were affected by the deadly earthquake.
Japan won the first of five Tests against New Zealand 2-0 on Friday with the second Test to be played Sunday.
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President Dmitry Medvedev on Friday offered Russia's assistance to Tokyo following a huge earthquake and tsunami in Japan, as waves reached islands at the heart of the two countries' territorial dispute. "Of course we are ready to help our neighbours overcome the consequences of this very difficult earthquake," Medvedev told a government meeting. Earlier Friday, Russia declared a tsunami ... read more
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