Fears for Chinese students, tourists

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 March, 2011, 12:00am

With communications still down, there were fears last night for the safety of Chinese citizens who may have been caught up in the earthquake and deadly tsunami, especially students in Miyagi prefecture, the area worst hit.

Chinese ambassador Cheng Yonghua told China Central Television the embassy was still trying to establish whether Chinese citizens were safe.

Cheng said the embassy had sent teams to check the safety of delegations and Chinese companies and was preparing to send a team to Sendai, the capital of Miyagi, to find out if any Chinese citizens were among the casualties.

'The situation here is not only that telecommunications have broken down but also the railway and highways are closed,' Cheng said.

'We are worried because there are many Chinese students in Miyagi, especially in Sendai. We will send people there as soon as possible.'

Last night the Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned Chinese citizens to be cautious when travelling in Japan and to avoid areas affected by the quake and tsunami.

The Chinese embassy posted a statement on its website saying it was trying to identify losses and casualties stemming from the 8.9 magnitude earthquake. It said an official would be on duty 24 hours a day.

Japan is a popular travel destination for Chinese people. Last year 3.19 million people from the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan visited the country.

China's biggest online travel agency, CTRIP, said Miyagi was not a popular tourist destination for Chinese, with most of those affected being tourists in Tokyo.

There are 193 CTRIP tourists in Japan but some groups had yet to get in touch because of the communication problem. Another travel agency, China Youth Travel Service, had contacted its groups in Japan and was waiting to arrange their return to China because Tokyo's Narita airport had been closed.

Feng Yuan, who is studying in Tokyo, told China News Service that she was in a fifth-floor dormitory when the quake struck.

She said she thought it was an 'ordinary quake', until books fell off the shelf. The quake lasted about one minute.

'I rushed outside the dormitory and saw staff taking students to open ground. They were not in a panic.'

No one was hurt.

'My mobile phone could not get a signal so I went online to contact my family and report I was safe,' she told the news agency via an instant messaging service.