The State Department updated its Travel Alert yesterday requesting that non-essential USG travel to Japan be deferred in light of the natural and humanitarian disaster that affected the country:
The Department of State requests all non-essential official U.S. government personnel defer travel to Japan and also urges U.S. citizens to avoid tourism and non-essential travel to Japan at this time. Flights have resumed at all airports that were closed by the earthquake, with the exception of Sendai Airport in Miyagi Prefecture, which remains flooded. In Tokyo, most public transportation including trains and subways are operating. Many roads have been damaged in the Tokyo area and in northern Japan. In Iwate Prefecture toll road highways are restricted to emergency vehicles only.
I am reposting below the contact info for American citizen services:
For calls from within the U.S. 1-888-407-4747
For calls from outside the U.S. 1-202-501-4444
American Citizen Inquiries: JapanEmergencyUSC@state.gov
Warden Message: http://tokyo.usembassy.gov/e/acs/tacs-arch.html
The US Ambassador to Japan, John Roos, also gave an update on US assistance
over the weekend on March 14, Japan time:
It goes without saying that we feel great sorrow, and our hearts go out to the people of Japan and to all of those who have been affected by the events of the last few days. Japan is our close ally and partner. President Obama spoke with Prime Minister Kan soon after the earthquake. On behalf of the American people, he conveyed our deepest condolences, especially to the victims and their families, and offered our Japanese friends whatever assistance is needed. I have been in constant contact with our government in Washington and the government here in Japan, including during this evolving situation with the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The United States is absolutely committed to helping Japan in any way possible to respond to and recover from the tragedy of the past few days and as Japan continues to deal with its effects.
Our consular officers in the Embassy and consulates have been responding around the clock to inquiries. This is something that they are trained to do very well, and all American citizens should feel free to utilize their services. They are also reaching out to the American citizen community, trying to push out information about what to do and what the Japanese authorities are also making available.
Because of the longstanding and close working relationship between the U.S. military and its Japanese counterparts on a daily basis, the United States military has humanitarian assistance capabilities positioned in the affected regions that are ready to support emergency relief efforts and minimize human suffering.
U.S. military assets include a wide range of equipment, air, sea, and ground capability and expertise. Initial actions which have been undertaken by the U.S. military include the following:
- Yokota Air Base was instrumental in recovering airline traffic in the hours immediately following the earthquake.
- We immediately moved U.S. Air Force and Marine helicopter and transport aircraft from Okinawa to our U.S. military bases on Honshu.
- The USS Ronald Reagan was heading east and was immediately turned around to support our efforts here in Japan. They arrive tonight.
- We are moving Marine command and control units ready to work with Japan’s Self-Defense Forces to coordinate our efforts on the ground.
- 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.
Ambassador Roos who is on Twitter says that there are approximately 1,300 American citizens in the prefectures that were most affected by the earthquake and tsunami. He also estimates that there are approximately 160,000 American citizens in Japan. He tweeted that “We are working to send consular officers to these affected prefectures tonight to assist Americans in those areas.” And that “There is no double standard – what we advise our Embassy personnel will be provided to all Americans.”
You can read more about the “no double standard” policy here (pdf).
Follow Ambassador Roos on Twitter here.
CNN reported that U.S. Forces Japan, based at Yokota Air Base near Tokyo, is the lead military command for coordinating humanitarian assistance. And that shortly after the quake struck, the air base was designated as an alternate airfield for flights that could not land at Tokyo’s Narita Airport. The military assistance operation is now officially known as Operation Tomodachi (friendship). Ambassador Roos also tweeted that over 6,000 personnel from the U.S. military are participating in some capacity in these disaster-relief operations.
Below are some photos from the U.S. Pacific Fleet: