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Monday, March 21, 2011

The Earthquake at Tohoku and humanitarian help by 7th fleet - Operation Tomodachi

It is worst time for Japan – the Earthquake and Tsunami in the Tohoku region has cast disaster on the Nation.  The Tohoku earthquake was a  9.0-magnitude megathrust earthquake off the coast of Japan that occurred at 14:46 JST (05:46 UTC) on Friday 11 March 2011. Its  epicenter was 130 kilometers (81 mi) off the east coast of the Oshika Peninsula of Tôhoku near Sendai.  The earthquake triggered extremely destructive tsunami waves of up to 10 meters (33 ft) that struck Japan minutes after the quake.  Its devastation extended interior as it came travelling upto 10 km inside the land.  The tsunami waves reached more countries after hours but in smaller measure.  The country is facing a disaster and still counting its death.  There is no point in listing out the details of people killed and properties destroyed.  It has caused extensive damage to building, roads and other structures.  Millions have been rendered homeless and stranded without electricity.  Worser still is the threat of  nuclear reactors suffered explosions.  IAEA the International Atomic body has described the crisis as extremely serious.  The nuclear plant at  the Fukushima is imperiled.
At the time of sorrow of Japan, messages of condolence and offers of assistance have been pouring in.  Japan is reported to have sought assistance of teams from Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States; and has also requested, via its space agency JAXA, the activation of the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters, allowing diverse satellite imagery of affected regions to be readily shared with rescue and aid organizations.
Operation Tomodachi (literally operation Friends) is notable amongst these.  It is US Armed Forces assistance to support relief in Japan.  The US Navy dispatched aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and other vessels flew a series of helicopter operations. USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) is a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered supercarrier in the service of the United States Navy. The ninth ship of her class, she is named in honor of former President Ronald Reagan, President of the United States from 1981 to 1989. Upon her christening in 2001, she was the first ship to be named for a former president still living at the time.

The  Seventh Fleet is the United States Navy's permanent forward projection force based in Yokosuka, Japan, with units positioned near South Korea and Japan. It is the largest forward deployed US fleets with more than 50 ships, 350 aircrafts and tens of thousands of Navy.   The Force is for the operational defense of Korean Peninsula.  There are some reports quoting the naval personnel of 7th fleet that warship  had been exposed to radiation.  It is stated that separate hand-held equipment also picked up the contamination on 17 crew members, (presumably those who had participated in rescue operations). The exposure was reported to be low and after wash with soap and water, result was negative. 

The crew engaged in the mission are also battling cold weather and strong aftershocks.  Their fleet is continuing humanitarian aid and disaster relief efforts and reportedly had delivered 29 tons of aid from ships to location ashore.  Helicopters had rendered much needed materials to Hachinohe airport as well as landing zones that mark shelters for displaced persons.  The delivery priorities were - food, water, and warm clothing for those affected.   The military also reports that  USS Tortuga (LSD 46) is serving as an afloat forward service base for helicopter operations. It further stated that many families of Seventh Fleet Sailors in Yokosuka and Atsugi are making preparations to depart voluntarily as part of the Military Assisted Departure for Department of Defense personnel.

Today’s reports have it that a C17 Globemaster III delivered 90,000 pounds of humanitarian aid at the affected Sendai Airport, Japan. The personnel are also working alongside local crews in clearing debris and mud from the hardest parts of the port.  More supplies of blankets, food, water and medical supplies to disaster victims were also reportedly on their way.  At a time of crisis, this news does looks optimistic and laudable.

Regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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