By Miyoko Ishigami
TOKYO, March12(KUNA) -- Kuwait's gift of five million barrels of crude oil to help Japan recover from last March's devastating earthquake and tsunami is highly appreciated by the Japanese people, especially by those in the disaster-stricken areas, Japanese Red Cross Society President Tadateru Konoe said. The Kuwaiti donation was the largest contribution to Japan by any country in this critical period. "I would like to extend sincere thanks to the Kuwaiti leadership and the people for their support and generosity," Konoe said in an interview with Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) on Monday.
His comment came as he welcomed the state visit to Japan by H.H. the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah starting from March 20.
"The donated oil was already delivered to four Japanese refiners late last year.
In order to implement visible assistance, we established a relief fund with money to the value of the free oil worth some USD 550 million," said Konoe, who doubles as President of International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
"The aid covers eight areas, such as infrastructure recovery and support for medical care, education, employment and agriculture, in the three hardest-hit prefectures of Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima," said Konoe. "The projects in Fukushima have begun, and the planned projects in Miyagi and Iwate will also kick off soon after approval from the prefectural assemblies," he said, adding that the three local governments, which severely suffer from weak finances following the March catastrophe, show gratitude to the Kuwaiti government for allowing them to flexibly utilize the relief money for the reconstruction projects.
According to the Japanese Red Cross Society, Fukushima Prefecture, home to the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, plans to spend JPY 81 billion (USD 982 million) in the current fiscal year for 14 projects, including support to small and medium-sized companies affected by the nuclear accident, restoration of cultural properties and rebuilding homes of disaster victims.
Kuwait's generous gift was sent upon directives of H.H. the Amir following a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami on March 11 that left more than 19,000 people dead or missing in the northeastern region. Kuwait has responded promptly and sincerely to Japan's crisis soon after the disasters, with H.H. the Amir and a number of dignitaries dispatching letters and messages of sympathy. 5 million barrels of oil surpasses Japan's daily consumption of 4.4 million barrels and is equal to two days of Kuwait's production.
In addition, Kuwaiti Ambassador to Japan Abdulrahman Al-Otaibi and his embassy staff held a successful charity bazaar last May and donated JPY 500, 000 (USD 6,100), a part of the proceeds, to the Japanese Red Cross Society for the victims. The ambassador also visited northeastern city of Kesennuma last April to encourage survivors. We will remember kindness and support extended by the Kuwaiti government and people. While in Kesennuma, where it took six hours for him to reach from Tokyo, Al-Otaibi offered survivors foods, living necessities, school supplies and 240 soccer balls with two countries' national flags painted. (end) mk.rk KUNA 120902 Mar 12NNNN