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U.S. rushes to help Japan

Sun., March 13, 2011

Government, private efforts mobilize

WASHINGTON – 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.”

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. Each has about 72 personnel, dogs and 75 tons of rescue equipment.

Both teams are set to arrive Monday morning in Misawa, Japan, where they will search for live victims alongside Japanese and other international teams.

A USAID Disaster Assistance Response team is already in Japan, the agency said.

The U.S response is not limited to the federal government.

California Gov. Jerry Brown directed the state’s Emergency Management Agency to make resources available to the Japanese government.

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


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