Japan’s iPad 2 launch postponed

March 15, 2011, 6:45 PM UTC

Apple can only do so much for the beleaguered country

Apple has closed its Sendai store, shown here before the earthquake.

Although Apple claims that it’s on track to deliver iPad 2s to the other 25 countries that were scheduled to get the new tablet on March 25, it has confirmed what it told All Things Digital‘s John Paczkowski earlier today: The company is postponing the launch in Japan while its people there focus on recovery.

“Our hearts go out to the people of Japan, including our employees and their familes who have been impacted by this terrible tragedy,” said Apple’s (AAPL) Natalie Kerris, repeating word for word the statement she gave Pacskowski.

But the company’s reluctance to go off script shouldn’t diminish the good work it has been doing in the earthquake and tsunami-ravaged country, from offering a free communications lifeline to people trying to reach their loved ones to providing food and shelter to stranded employees.

Below: An excerpt from a letter sent to Digg’s Kevin Rose by an Apple staffer who describes himself as a survivor of the Great Tohoku Earthquake of 2011.

“You know how in disaster movies, people on the street gather around electronic shops that have TVs in the display windows so they can stay informed with what is going on?  In this digital age, that’s what the Tokyo Apple stores became.  Staff brought out surge protectors and extension cords with 10s of iOS device adapters so people could charge their phones & pads and contact their loved ones.  Even after we finally had to close 10pm, crowds of people huddled in front of our stores to use the wifi into the night, as it was still the only way to get access to the outside world…

“Once staff let their families know that they were not only safe but how comfortable we were (break room refridgerators stocked with food and drink, etc), family members began asking if they could stay at the Apple stores as well.  Of course Apple said yes.  One business team member’s stranded mother walked 3.5 hours to be with her daughter at the store. When she arrived, the Apple store staff gave her a standing ovation (‘Warm Welcome’) like they do for customers during a new launch.”

The full text of the letter is available here. It’s worth reading.

Also on Fortune.com:

[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]