Japan earthquake and tsunami crisis – smartraveller.gov.au

It was about four o’clock in the afternoon
when the earthquake happened – it was the longest one I’d felt here. One of the first
things we did was contact the emergency centre in Canberra to let them know there had been
a massive earthquake. We knew the magnitude of the tsunami within about five to ten minutes
after the earthquake so we knew how big the earthquake had been, where it had happened
and how big they were estimating the tsunami to be. By the Saturday morning we knew how
bad the damage was. We had a number of Australians up north and because there was no communication
our only option was to send a team up there to determine their welfare. So a team of a
Canadian, a New Zealander and a couple of Australians we all went up north together
in the Embassy van. The first evening we were unable to get anywhere because we hit the
damaged areas which was just wall to wall cars and buildings smashed. The next day we
knew we were looking for two Australians in Ishinomarki which was a town not that far
from Sendai. So we went straight there and we went to hospitals, morgues, and all the
evacuation shelters that we could find to try and locate the two Australians. And at
the end of the day we got to both of the Australians which was a great feeling. Just – there
had been devastation all day and to finally find these two and they were alive and they
weren’t hurt was a – was a great feeling. For all Australians who are planning on travelling
overseas, a crisis like this one – which was just huge in terms of earthquake, nuclear,
tsunami, everything – register. You’ve got to register. If you don’t register,
we can’t find you. Japan is one of those countries where everything works quite well.
People who live here, they have to register, but there are so many countries around the
world where these great systems don’t work. So if you don’t tell us where you live,
and if you don’t tell us when you move, we can’t find you when one of these tragedies
happens. So please, even if you’re going somewhere for a week, um, even if it doesn’t
have earthquakes, you never know what’s going to happen, so register. Also, do not
leave home without travel insurance. Um, it’s vital. A lot of the time in our work in consular
work, it’s not your fault what happens, but if you don’t have travel insurance you
still end up paying. And to get yourself home, it can cost a lot of money. Hi I am Julia. I’m a consular officer in
the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and I worked on the emergency call unit during
the crisis in Japan. The tsunami happened on Friday and I started work here on Monday.
There were other people working all through the weekend but by the time I get in on the
Monday to do my shifts this emergency call unit was definitely full. We had colleagues
from Centrelink also manning the phones over there through the night and trying to respond
to many queries from Australians in Japan as well as their family and friends here in
Australia concerned about their welfare. We were continually saying if you have access
to the internet keep on looking at our travel advice which was being updated very regularly.
Similarly the information from the nuclear organisations was being updated regularly
as the situation was unfolding. We made sure we had accurate contact details for everyone
so that if the situation changed for the worst very quickly – we were able to – we had
contingency plans in place to help people. It is really rewarding work and I really think
it is the public face of DFAT the consular work that we do My name is Tanisha. I work in the Department
of Foreign Affairs and Trade. I am usually a policy officer and I am also part of the
Consular Crisis Cadre so when there is a consular crisis around the world I often get called
upon to come and help staff the Crisis Centre. It was a Friday night and we were all leaving
and I ran into people in the corridors saying – are you going to be around this weekend
we think there may be a crisis – and sure enough an hour later I got called in and asked
to come and work at midnight that night – my initial job was getting together all the information
out there, some of it correct, some of it incorrect –very technical. The Japan Crisis
was very complex. There were consular issues. There was the physical safety of Australians
who were actually in the region. There were also concerns about nuclear safety and radiation.
There were also policy aspects. There were commercial flights – could people go in and
out of the country? There was a lot of different things to consider.

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