Relief operations under way

McClatchy Tribune


The U.S. government, private aid groups and American corporations all mobilized Saturday in support of rescue and recovery efforts in disaster-stricken Japan.

U.S. Navy ships and aircraft converged on the country in the wake of Friday’s earthquake and tsunami, and the main U.S. aid agency dispatched two urban search-and-rescue teams. Private American aid groups also sent teams. The two biggest private U.S. satellite companies, GeoEye and DigitalGlobe, aimed their orbiting cameras at Japan in an effort to provide governments and relief agencies with helpful overhead imagery of the affected area.

The U.S. military assistance operation is known as Operation Tomodachi, or “friendship,” the III Marine Expeditionary Force said in a statement. The operation name was chosen by the Japanese.

“We have units from all of our services, with a multitude of capabilities, from medical to communications to civil engineering, poised and ready to support where needed,” John Roos, the U.S. ambassador to Japan, told reporters Saturday. “Our military is working closely with their Japanese counterparts to support where requested and needed.”

In Shiroishi, a town near the area hardest hit by the earthquake, two helicopters from an anti- submarine squadron delivered 1,500 pounds of rice and bread donated by the people of Ebina, a town to the south, the U.S. 7th Fleet said.

The destroyers McCampbell and Curtis Wilbur were preparing to move into position off Miyagi Prefecture “to assist Japanese authorities with providing at-sea search-and-rescue and recovery operations.” An additional destroyer, Mustin, was to depart Yokosuka today.

The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group, which includes a cruiser, a destroyer and a combat-support ship, was en route to the east coast of Honshu and expected to arrive today. The aircraft carrier is prepared to serve as a platform for refueling Japanese military and other helicopters involved in rescue-and-recovery efforts ashore.

The 7th Fleet flagship, the Blue Ridge, took on a Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief kit Friday night in Singapore and departed Saturday morning. It is expected to arrive Friday.

U.S. Forces Japan, based at Yokota Air Base near Tokyo, is coordinating humanitarian assistance, the military said. The air base is being used as an alternative for flights that cannot land at Tokyo’s Narita Airport.

The U.S. Agency for International Development dispatched two urban search-and-rescue teams, one from Fairfax County, Va., and the second from Los Angeles County, Calif.

U.S. nongovernmental aid organizations will be pitching in, said Samuel A. Worthington, president of InterAction, a coalition of the groups.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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