Information on foreigners in Tohoku scarce

Authorities are trying to gather information about foreign victims of the March 11 earthquake-tsunami catastrophe, but the unprecedented damage is hampering relief work.

Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto pledged to do his utmost to determine the whereabouts of foreigners, both alive and missing, but 10 days after the disaster the government remains unready to release even an estimate of those affected.

“We must (try to ascertain) the whereabouts of people from foreign countries in the same way we are doing for Japanese people,” Matsumoto told a press conference Friday.

According to the Justice Ministry, there were about 95,000 foreigners in the four Pacific coast prefectures slammed by the tsunami — Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima and Ibaraki.

The Foreign Ministry has received hundreds of inquiries from about 80 countries about citizens who were or could have been in the region at the time the historic 9-magnitude quake triggered the monster waves.

The National Police Agency said the number of people unaccounted for hit about 13,000 Sunday and that about 8,500 had been identified or confirmed dead.

But the figures for the missing are based only on registrations by their relatives.