The PJ Tatler

Latest on Japanese Rescue Operations

While much of the media attention is focused on the earthquake/tsunami destruction and the overhyped threats of a meltdown at the  Dai-iichi nuclear plant, rescue operations continue under very difficult conditions.Ensign Margaret Morton, USS Mustin (DDG 89)  has been sending reports to friends and family and a cousin has shared them with Just One Minute readers. Here’s her latest:

Dear friends and family, Once again, I cannot start without thanking each and every one of your from all over America, to England, Germany, France, and beyond for your support for me and the others out here serving off the coast of Northern Japan. Looking out across the ocean is so peaceful, with snow capped mountains only a few miles away glistening under the “super moon.”

The weather has been clear for the last day or so, making both operations and safe navigation much easier. The debris has scattered with the current, but laundry baskets, drawers, fishing boats, and other pieces of homes floating by continue to remind us of the loss and destruction. The other night, however, we did transit through quite a large snow storm that covered the ship with enough of a layer that in the morning we had two snowmen on the bridge wings standing as extra lookouts. Yet as the blizzard continued outside, the crew of MUSTIN gathered in the galley to have a sandwich-making party for yesterday’s deliveries. We made ham, turkey, and cheese sandwiches working in teams of three or four, all ranks, someone slicing bread, others stuffing them, and finally those wrapping them. When we ran out of meat, we switched to peanut butter and jelly. For me, it was overwhelming to think how a PB&J sandwich that I take for granted so often was going to get someone through another day. The following day, we catered more towards the Japanese palate by making little balls of rice.

The number of sandwiches totaled over 400 and the rice balls over 300. In talking to the pilots who delivered the food, when they arrived at the landing zone, the people came right up to the helicopter through 2-3 feet of snow. Yet, they maintained all the Japanese formalities, bowing until the moment the helo left the ground. One pilot told me he had emptied the vending machines to give candy to the children at one of the schools where they landed. Today the ships out here together delivered 30 tons of supplies ashore. We are continuing to give what we can, with the knowledge that more supplies are on the way.

Now that we are out at sea and settling into a routine, the events of the last week are starting to catch up, making many people tired just due to the sheer emotional strain. All we know is that we will remain here for an extended period of time, providing whatever support the Japanese need. Keep the Japanese people in your thoughts and prayers, they are a very strong culture and will overcome this tragedy. For us, there is still a lot of uncertainty and many Sailors are deeply concerned for their families, especially those still in Japan.

I attached a few photos, the first is us making sandwiches and the second is a view of the shoreline from above!


Charities also are carrying reports on their websites.

From AmeriCares:

The Japanese government has deployed 100,000 troops to the northeast coast for emergency operations, with hundreds of national and international search and rescue teams joining the effort on the scene of epic devastation.  Focus is beginning to shift from search and rescue for survivors to caring for the homeless.

The AmeriCares team began mobilizing within hours of the first reports of the dual disasters, dispatching an emergency response manager to Tokyo to direct the efforts of our relief workers in Sendai, the largest city closest to the impact zone.  Our team is in direct contact with local officials, evacuation shelters and hospitals treating the injured in Miyagi, Fukushima and Iwate to determine health needs.

Based on these early assessments, AmeriCares is preparing a shipment of basic hygiene items originating in Japan for urgent delivery to shelters in Miyagi and Iwate where hundreds of thousands of survivors have been forced to flee their homes.  In addition to building a relief convoy for shipments to Sendai, AmeriCares is setting up an office in Tokyo to coordinate our relief efforts.

The official death toll, last reported at more than 6,000, climbs daily and over 10,000 people are still reported missing.  Some 500,000 people have been evacuated, with many living in the more than 2,500 evacuation centers set up in local prefectures.  There are widespread shortages of food, water and fuel.  Rescue operations continue to be hampered by numerous aftershocks, tsunami alerts, electricity outages, snow and freezing temperatures.  Many impacted areas along the northeast coast remain isolated and unreachable by emergency personnel.

“Our goal now is to concentrate on the immediate health needs of the affected population, particularly of those families living in shelters,” said Michelle Jackson, AmeriCares emergency response manager.  “Over the longer term, we will focus on restoring health services that have been lost and helping hard-hit communities rebuild.”

From Shelterbox USA which provides emergency shelter,blankets,stove,tools and equipment for 10 people in a sturdy container known as the shelterbox:

Local government authorities in Japan’s Iwate Prefecture have requested 500 ShelterBoxes to provide emergency shelter and lifesaving supplies for families who lost their homes in last week’s tsunami.

The request came via the local Rotary district and is initially for 100 ShelterBoxes for each of the following five cities: Miyako, Yamadamachi, Kamaishi, Rikuzentakata and Ofunato.

The ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) operating in the country are working in cooperation with the British Embassy, British military personnel and the US military to overcome the logistical challenges they are facing.

It is a seven-hour journey by road from Tokyo to the Iwate Prefecture and with fuel shortages, heavy snow, freezing temperatures and the ongoing nuclear situation there are a range of obstacles to overcome in order to ensure aid reaches the families who need it most.

‘Every disaster is different but this one is certainly posing a unique set of circumstances for us to deal with,’ said SRT member and ShelterBox International Director Lasse Petersen who has been in Japan since last Saturday.

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