The first group of Colombians living in Japan were flown back to Bogota early Wednesday morning after the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit the Asian state on March 11.
The group of 139 Colombians, along with Chileans and Peruvian family who were evacuated, arrived by military aircraft at 12:45AM local time to the sound of the Colombian national anthem after a 20 hour flight from Tokyo, El Tiempo reported Wednesday.
The commander of the mission, Colonel Lusi Fernando Amaya, stated that all those who were on board are in good health though each individual will undergo medical checks.
One of the Colombians flown back, Luz Estela Ofaba, told reporters that she is returning with mixed emotions of relief to be safe but also anxiety over the future and the possible effects of radiation.
“I am excited to return, but also very scared because I left half my life there,” adding that she holds “some fear for my health and that of my family for the possible effects radiation may bring.”
Estela also stated her distrust toward the Japanese government after their handling of the crisis, saying all the information she received with regard to the fallout of the explosions at one of Japan’s nuclear power stations came through the media.
Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin confirmed that another group of 115 Colombians are due to arrive in Caracas on Wednesday courtesy of a Venezuelan evacuation, El Espectador reports.
Holguin stated, “We are optimistic that the situation [in Japan] has been improving, as the information from the Japanese government is increasingly encouraging.”
She added that overall, more than 500 Colombians living in Japan have registered to return to Colombia and a second flight to Bogota could take place this week.