Monster #Earthquake/Tsunami Strikes Japan, State Dept Urges Americans Stay Away

The massive 8.9 earthquake hit Japan on Friday, March 11, 2011 at 02:46:23 PM (local time at epicenter)[March 10, 2011 at 12:46:23 AM (EST);  09:46:23 PM (PST)].

The US Embassy in Tokyo announced its office closure for the rest of the day and advised American citizens in Japan to listen to local news reports, check with local authorities and contact their neighborhood evacuation centers.

It has released a Warden Message containing a Tsunami Forecast Region Classification of Tsunami Warning/Advisory. 

Its updated Travel Alert advised U.S. citizens to avoid travel to Japan at this time.

The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to avoid tourism and non-essential travel to Japan at this time. Tokyo airports are currently closed; other airports in Japan may be closed or have restricted access. Public transportation, including trains and subways are closed in the Tokyo area, and service has been interrupted in other areas. Many roads have been damaged in the Tokyo area and in northern Japan.
U.S. citizens currently in Japan should contact family and friends in the United States to confirm their well-being at the earliest opportunity. Where internet and telephone services are not available, it may be possible to contact people using SMS (Cell text message) or other forms of social media such as Twitter and Facebook. U.S. citizens may contact the Department of State at and the emergency contact numbers below.

For information on the whereabouts and welfare of family and friends in Japan, please consult the State Department website or call the toll free number 1-888-407-4747, or 1-202-501-4444.

Read more here.

The Federal Times reported that all federal employees and their family members stationed in Japan are accounted for following Friday’s earthquake and tsunami citing an unnamed State Department official .  There are no reports of injuries or deaths among U.S. government personnel but apparently, the US embassy staff in Tokyo was moved to an alternate location. The Secretary of Defense traveling in Bahrain during the earthquake said thatall of our people are OK, our ships and military facilities are all in pretty good shape” and that “we are prepared to help them in any way we possibly can.”

Extracted from United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Map
Click here for larger map

The USGS says that the 03/11/2011 earthquake (preliminary magnitude 8.9) near the east coast of Honshu, Japan, occurred as a result of thrust faulting on or near the subduction zone interface plate boundary between the Pacific and North America plates.

The March 11 earthquake was preceded by a series of large foreshocks over the previous two days, beginning on March 9th with an M 7.2 event approximately 40 km from the March 11 earthquake, and continuing with a further 3 earthquakes greater than M 6 on the same day.

The Japan Trench subduction zone has hosted 9 events of magnitude 7 or greater since 1973. The largest of these was an M 7.8 earthquake approximately 230 km to the north of the March 11 event, in December 1994, which caused 3 fatalities and almost 700 injuries. In June of 1978, an M 7.7 earthquake 75 km to the southwest caused 22 fatalities and over 400 injuries. In December of 2008, a sequence of 4 moderate earthquakes (M 5.3-5.8) occurred within 20 km of the March 11 event. In the first 12 hours following the March 11 earthquake, the region has experienced over a dozen aftershocks of M 5 or greater, the largest being M 5.7.

It looks like this is the biggest temblor to hit the country since we started keeping records. More details here.

AlertNet has the following updates. Read in full here:

  • Up to 300 bodies found in Sendai city, domestic news agency Jiji says.
  • A ship carrying 100 people was swept away by the tsunami, Kyodo news agency reports.
  • Some 3,000 residents living near a nuclear plant in Fukushima prefecture, north of Tokyo, have been told to evacuate the area, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano tells reporters.
  • A train is unaccounted for in one coastal area, Kyodo says.
  • Power cut to four million homes in and around Tokyo. Several fires blaze in Tokyo.
  • Bullet trains to the north of the country stopped. The government was to dispatch 900 rescue workers to stricken regions.
  • Countries covered by the warnings include Russia, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru.

MSNBC reported that the cooling system failed at Fukushima No. 1 plant after the quake and that the U.S. Air Force has delivered coolant to the nuclear plant.

AlertNet is live blogging the Japan earthquake here.

Updated with items on USG employees in Japan @4:50 pm EST

US Evacuates Refugees and How to Help in the Libyan Crisis

According to the US Embassy in Tunisia, two C-130 military transport planes landed in Djerba, Tunisia on March 4 delivering humanitarian supplies from the U.S. Government.  Each aircraft carried three pallets of aid supplies, which included 2,000 blankets, 40 rolls of plastic sheeting, and 9,600 10-liter water containers.  These humanitarian relief supplies, sufficient for up to 2,000 beneficiaries, were given to the Tunisia Red Crescent for distribution.

On March 5, two U.S. Marine KC-130 aircraft and two additional U.S. Air Force C-130s flew missions from Djerba to Cairo, returning a total of 312 Egyptian nationals to their home country.   On March 6, four additional flights repatriated another 328 Egyptian nationals, for a total of 640 repatriated over the weekend. 

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.
Photos from US Air Force/Flickr
{additional photos available here}

The United States has also provided the following assistance to IOM, UNCHR and the ICRC:

  • $13 million to IOM to support the transportation of thousands people from Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia who fled Libya and are now in Tunisia and Egypt.
  • $7 million to the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which is working in both Tunisia and Egypt, including managing the transit center in Tunisia near the Tunisia-Libya border that is currently providing basic services to thousands of migrants; and
  • $7 million for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to assist their efforts in meeting humanitarian needs in Tunisia arising from the unrest and armed confrontations in Libya.  This work includes medical and surgical care and other emergency needs such as water and sanitation.
ACT Alliance which has a correspondent in Tunisia reports that around 15,000 people, most of them migrant workers, are currently living in the Sousha refugee camp, which lies inside Tunisia, close to the border with north-western Libya, where pro-Gaddafi forces have control. “The UN estimates that around half a million refugees may cross the border from Libya. As the conflict deepens, this number could increase to a million. If today’s situation is an indicator of things to come, the majority of these refugees will be young male migrant workers.” 

If you want to help, USAID encourages cash donations because they allow aid professionals to procure the exact items needed (often in the affected region); reduce the burden on scarce resources (such as transportation routes, staff time, warehouse space, etc.); can be transferred very quickly and without transportation costs; support the economy of the disaster-stricken region; and ensure culturally, dietary, and environmentally appropriate assistance. More information can be found at:

USAID: disaster assistance page

The Center for International Disaster Information: or (703) 276-1914

Information on relief activities of the humanitarian community can be found at

Guide to Humanitarian Giving: The Libya Crisis {United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)}

Relief Web | Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Page