Japanese Cabinet ministers renewed gratitude to Kuwait for helping a disaster-hit railway in northeastern Japan to restart its full operations on Sunday.
The remarks come as Sanriku Railway made a complete comeback after a three-year hiatus, with introducing new railcars purchased with financial aid from Kuwait.
In a grand ceremony at Miyako Station, about 480 km northeast of Tokyo, Reconstruction Minister Takumi Nemoto said in his speech, "Since its establishment in 1984, Sanriku Railway has served as an important tool for students and elder people here. It has also helped boost tourism. We sincerely appreciate Kuwait for its great assistance." Nemoto also asserted that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe''''s Cabinet puts a top priority on accelerating reconstruction efforts in the disaster-stricken areas.
Sanriku Railway operates a 107.6-km track along the Pacific coast of Iwate Prefecture, comprising two lines -- the North Rias Line and the South Rias Line, both essential for local people''''s life. But it was forced to suspend operations after its train cars, rails, bridges and stations were wrecked by a magnitude 9.0-quake and ensuring tsunami on March 11, 2011.
Speaking to Kuwait News Agency (KUNA), Land, Infrastructure and Transport and Tourism Minister Akihiro Ota also expressed gratitude to Kuwait for its fullest support since the 2011 tragedy. "Three years after the devastating disaster, Sanriku Railway finally comes back. The resumption of railway brings local people special and distinct joy from the restoration of other transportation. Financial assistance from Kuwait enabled Sanriku Railway to buy such excellent railcars, and we all Japanese people are so much grateful to Kuwait." Much-awaited full recovery of the both lines was achieved by the restoration of the 10.5 km-section on the North Rias Line, a day after the neighboring South Rias Line''''s complete comeback.
Commemorating the full-scale operations, Sanriku Railway introduced five new railcars, each costs JPY 160 million (USD 1.6 million), including a retro car and a traditional Japanese house look-alike car. The new carriages were purchased with financial aid from Kuwait. In April last year, Kuwait also helped the company buy three brand-new railcars on the occasion of the partial relaunch of the South Rias Line.
Kuwaiti Ambassador to Japan Abdulrahman Al-Otaibi and his wife celebrated railway''''s full revival with the ministers, officials and local people. At the ceremony, the ambassador expressed gratitude for being able to attend this historical ceremony, which he described "another clear path of reconstruction." Although the sufferings from the loss and destruction still continue, the ambassador showed confidence that the people in the affected areas are all gifted with the passion and capability in exploring ways towards even more brilliant future. "I reaffirm that our people as well as our government will continue their stand and support to our sincere Japanese friends. Please consider us a close friend who are committed to be with you all the time," Al-Otaibi affirmed.
In grateful acknowledgment of Kuwait''''s assistance, Governor of Iwate Prefecture Takuya Tasso, who doubles as Chairman of Sanriku Railway, gave the ambassador a relic rail and a model train. In his speech, Tasso expressed gratitude to Kuwait''''s substantial support as well as enormous efforts and cooperation by everyone concerned. "A new Ozashiki (traditional Japanese-style sitting room) train was introduced with Kuwait''''s assistance.
Following the 2011 catastrophe and upon directives of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Kuwait offered a donation of five million barrels of crude oil to Japan, an equivalent of some USD 500 million. The crude sales proceeds were given to the three hardest-hit prefectures including Iwate.
A message of appreciation for Kuwaiti assistance that says "We greatly appreciate the support from the State of Kuwait" were written in Japanese, English and Arabic on the side of the all eight train cars, while the national emblem of Kuwait is drawn at their head and back. In addition to the purchase of the eight railcars, the money was also used for reconstruction of five damaged station buildings and another facility.
Nearly 320 points on the two railway lines were damaged, including bridges and stations, and about JPY 9.2 billion (USD 90 million) is estimated for the reconstruction.
After the ceremony, the ambassador, his wife and other guests were invited for a 45-minute trip with the newly-introduced "Ozashiki train." Commemorative train tickets are sold at the inauguration of the train