A massive earthquake registering 8.9 on the Richter scale hit Japan on March 11th, followed by a devastating tsunami. So far, there are more than 1,500 confirmed deaths, more than 1,400 people missing and nearly 2,000 injured. Meanwhile at least 1.4 million people are temporarily without running water and more than 500,000 people are taking shelter in evacuation centers, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. An estimated 200,000 people have been evacuated from the areas around the Fukushima, Daiichi and Fukushima Daini nuclear plants.
The United States has offered Japan whatever assistance is needed. The United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, is coordinating the overall U.S. government efforts in Japan. The U.S. Ambassador to Japan declared an emergency which opened up an immediate fund of one-hundred thousand dollars from USAID's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance.
A Disaster Assistance Response Team was sent to Tokyo, which includes people with nuclear expertise from the Departments of Energy and Health and Human Services, as well as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, or NRC. The NRC members are experts in boiling water nuclear reactors and are available to assist their Japanese counterparts.
Two Urban Search and Rescue Teams, which total 144 members plus 12 search and rescue canines and up to 45 metric tons of rescue equipment are also on the ground in the affected area. The Department of Defense has the USS Reagan stationed off the coast of Japan and is conducting search and rescue missions. The American Red Cross International Services team is supporting the Japanese Red Cross Society to assist the people of Japan.
U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos commended the Government of Japan and the Japanese people for their resilience during this extremely challenging time. "I think it goes without saying," he said, "that the United States of America is one of Japan’s closest friends. This is a time when our country needs to step up for the country of Japan."