KUWAIT: A Japanese official said he was thankful to Kuwait for its help in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and Tsunami which left close to 20,000 people dead and whole towns destroyed. In a press statement issued by Kuwait's embassy in Tokyo, Governor of Miyagi prefecture Yoshihiro Murai said the oil Kuwait had donated at the time, which is valued at about $524 million, helped accelerate the pace of reconstruction after the calamity. The remarks came at an event attended by Kuwait's Ambassador to Japan Sami Al-Zamanan and Tohoku Medical and Pharmaceutical University students and officials.

Miyagi prefecture, closest to the epicenter of the 9.0-magnitude earthquake, was one of the most severely affected areas, with reportedly over 10,000 victims. Part of the money the prefecture received from Kuwait went to support establishing the Kuwait Partnership Fund for Medical Education with a capital of $104 million. The fund provides scholarships for medical students from Miyagi, who commit to working at designated medical institutions in the prefecture for 10 years after graduation from the then-newly established Tohoku Medical and Pharmaceutical University, according to a 2013 KUNA report. A brand-new building for the university's hospital, said Murai, was also built using Kuwaiti aid.

The projects, said Murai, helped address a shortage in medical staff in Miyagi and neighboring areas. Ambassador Al-Zamanan stressed the sturdiness of Kuwaiti-Japanese relations as the two celebrate 62 years of diplomatic ties. He said Kuwait's support to Japan was a natural reaction by late Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, in appreciation for Japan's position during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Zamanan reiterated the embassy's readiness to work diligently to further bolster partnership between the two friendly nations.

According to a 2011 KUNA report, Kuwait had donated five million barrels of crude oil to the quake-struck country. The first shipment of the donated fuel arrived on October 12, about seven months after the disaster. The oil was provided through Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC) based on a decision made in April 2011.

The donated oil was to be delivered to four Japanese refineries, and money to the value of the oil was to be given to quake victims through the Japan Red Cross. The organization planned to use the money for eight projects in Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima. "In our 134-year-old history, it is the first time that Japan Red Cross has received assistance in a form of crude oil," former Japanese Red Cross Society President Tadateru Konoe said at the time. - Agencies