US Embassy #Japan Evacuates Dependents/Amcits to Safehaven Locations in Asia

Map Extracted from CIA World Factbook

Overnight the State Department upgraded its alert to a Travel Warning and announced the authorized voluntary departure of dependents of personnel assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, the U.S. Consulate in Nagoya, and the Foreign Service Institute Field School in Yokohama.  The dependents of US personnel assigned to the consulates in Osaka-Kobe, Naha, Sapporo and Fukuoka are excluded from the evacuation order at this time.

The on-the-record briefing conducted by the Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy late last night did not identify the safehaven locations. But it looks like Seoul might be the most ideal temporary safehaven location, not only due to proximity but also because it allows U.S. passport holders to enter the country without a visa for stay of up to 90 days.  China posts are just across the water, but not sure those are designated safehaven locations.  There are also the larger posts in Manila and Bangkok, as well as Singapore as possible temporary locations.

The following is the announcement from US Embassy Tokyo on U.S. Government-arranged Transport within Asia [March 18 at 3 a.m.]

The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo informs U.S. citizens in Japan who wish to depart that the Department of State is making arrangements to provide transportation to destinations in East Asia outside Japan.

U.S. law requires that we bill all passengers for the transportation assistance provided through the U.S. government. U.S. citizens who travel on U.S. government-arranged transport will be expected to make their own onward travel plans from their arrival point. Flights began departing Tokyo on Thursday, March 17. U.S. government-arranged transport will be available from Tokyo on the evening of Friday, March 18.

U.S. citizens who have decided to depart Japan via USG-arranged transportation will find current transportation options, as well as any future scheduled flights, on the Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami webpage at

Please note: Immediate family members (spouses and children) who are not U.S. citizens must be documented for entry into their destination country and/or U.S., if that is your final destination. Travelers are permitted only one piece of luggage per person.

U.S. citizens in Japan and their friends and loved ones can enter information into a database that we can use to provide emergency consular assistance during this crisis. This is a free service, and by entering their information into Task Force Alert, you are helping us provide assistance and account for U.S. citizens in Japan. You can find more information on using Task Force Alert by visiting this website. [broken link]

The Task Force Alert is a free service that allows U.S. citizens in a crisis area and their friends and loved ones back home to enter information into a database that the State Dept can use to provide emergency consular assistance during a crisis. Here is the correct link:

The US Embassy also announced that it has arranged for over 600 seats on several buses for transportation from Sendai City Hall to Tokyo. Priority for seats will be given to U.S. citizens and their immediate dependents. Passengers will also be required to sign a promissory note to reimburse the U.S. Government for the normal bus fare from Sendai to Tokyo.  The first buses will depart at 9:00 a.m. on Friday, March 18 in front of Sendai City Hall. Other buses may also depart on 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, March 19 at the same location. Check for updates here.

Updated at 8:14 pm PST to add flight destination and evac info:

The Under Secretary for Management Pat Kennedy gave another briefing on the Japan evacuation.  The original number I’ve seen on US citizens in Japan was from Ambassador Roos, an estimate of about 160,000. Mr. Kennedy’s guesstimate today placed the number at about 90,000 Americans in and around Tokyo and about 350,000 Americans in Japan.

I marked Taipei on our map but forgot to include it when I posted this earlier. The first flight out of Japan carrying American evacuees went to Taipei with less than a hundred passengers. Another safehaven location mentioned in the briefing is Seoul. Excerpts from the briefing below:

UNDER SECRETARY KENNEDY: Okay. Flights – we put in one flight today. It left about four hours ago and it’s on its – it was en route to Taipei. The flight did not leave full. We had teams of consular officers and management personnel at both Haneda and Narita Airport, in effect sweeping for American citizens and all American citizens that we could find who wanted to be transported out, were transported. We plan to put another aircraft, at least one, in tomorrow depending upon what we assess the demand will be.

UNDER SECRETARY KENNEDY: I would say just under a hundred.

QUESTION: Okay. And these were people from —

UNDER SECRETARY KENNEDY: These were U.S. Government family members and a small number of private American citizens. The destination happened to be Taipei – (inaudible) we go and look for aircraft. It is often convenient and less costly just to find out where the aircraft’s home base is, fly it in to pick up the American citizens, and return to that location if it is the location where regular commercial transportation for onward travel where – for wherever people go. So from Taipei, they will be met by personnel from the American Institute in Taipei, pointed at hotels, showed how to get commercial onward tickets, and then it is their choice about where they want to go.

QUESTION: But that’s actually – but my question was actually just more since the Pentagon – the DOD is now authorizing – and perhaps you haven’t gotten this word, but they are now authorizing departures for all family members on the entire main island of Japan. But – so my question is actually: Is the State Department considering expanding –

UNDER SECRETARY KENNEDY: No, at this time. As we explained yesterday – and Secretary Poneman did a better job – we make a decision on the basis of the information provided to us by other U.S. Government experts. At the moment, we see no reason to extend the area, on the basis of the information we have today.

QUESTION: Can you explain why the authorized departure only covered dependents and why it wasn’t broadened to include non-emergency personnel?

UNDER SECRETARY KENNEDY: Because the – both the State Department and the Defense Department are working full out, seven by 24, in support of our Japanese ally in assisting them in dealing with the major crisis that they face. And so at the moment, it is our determination that all State Department personnel – and I believe from conversations I had with the Pentagon, which you can address it directly to them, that they have also determined that all employees, service members in that case are – constitute emergency cadre who are needed to carry out the national security and the assistance missions and the military missions that we’re engaged in.

QUESTION: So for the charter flights for today and tomorrow, are they all going to Taipei or is there any flights going to, say, South Korea or China?

UNDER SECRETARY KENNEDY: The flight that went today went to Taipei. It is likely, just because I will probably reuse the same aircraft, that at least one of those will go to Taipei tomorrow, and we’ll probably have a second aircraft, and that’s being worked on now. And I honestly don’t know where it’s going to go yet. But I can tell you that thanks to the work of the Bureau of Consular Affairs, starting yesterday, our embassies in Seoul and in – it was Seoul and – these were Seoul and AIT, the American Institute in Taiwan – were both notified, had both mobilized and have personnel who will – they’re making prearrangements with the local governments and will – and meet the aircraft to assist the American citizens.

QUESTION: Did China offer to help?

UNDER SECRETARY KENNEDY: At the moment, the – where the aircraft – the Chinese didn’t offer, and we didn’t ask, because the aircraft that were available were available out of Seoul and out of Taipei. And so we – what we want to do is move fast, get the people in, get out. If there were larger numbers, I always pick the shortest location so possibly I could even recycle the aircraft twice in a day to move more American citizens out, should that be required.

QUESTION: Please, sir, about the 50-mile radius evacuation zone. There was some suggestion that the U.S. military moved more quickly, maybe two days in advance to keep their people back 50 miles. Was the State Department slow to move and why?

UNDER SECRETARY KENNEDY: I have seen no indication, no evidence that that was the case.

QUESTION: And you feel confident the State Department moved as expeditiously as –

UNDER SECRETARY KENNEDY: This was an – a U.S. Government-wide analytical and decision-making effort, which had participation from all the agencies and parties that I identified earlier arriving at a collective decision.


Related items:
Travel to Safehaven Locations in Asia

On-the-Record Briefing with Under Secretary of State Patrick Kennedy and Deputy Secretary of Energy Dan Poneman | March 16, 2011

Check out the regular updates here.

2010 State Department Foreign Service National (FSN) Awards

Typically in November each year, the State Department honors Foreign Service Nationals or LE employees from each of its six regional bureaus worldwide. One of the six awardees is also selected as the FSN of the Year.  The names of awardees are usually announced via cable but not available publicly until 2-3 months later. Last year’s awardees have now been published in the February 2011 issue of State Magazine (extract provided below).  

From State Mag:  “The winners represent thousands of other Locally Employed Staff around the world, without whose efforts U.S. missions could not function, said Under Secretary for Political Affairs William Burns, who handed out the awards. “They are truly the backbone of every U.S. embassy and consulate,” he said.”
The FSN of the Year Award went to Dominique Gerdes, a visa specialist at the U.S. Embassy Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Burea of Western Hemisphere (WHA)

Dominique Gerdes
Visa Specialist, Consular Section
U.S. Embassy Port-au-Prince, Haiti

South Central Asia Bureau (SCA)

Agha Tanveer Hussain
Senior Security Investigator, Regional Security Office
U.S. Consulate General, Lahore, Pakistan

Near east Asia Bureau (NEA)

Mona El-Azem
Passport and Citizenship Specialist, Consular Section
U.S. Embassy in Damascus, Syria

East Asia Pacific Bureau (EAP)

Pajaree Sritham
Program Assistant, Refugee and Migration Aff airs
U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand

Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR)

Nathalie Trouve
Special Consular Services Assistant, Consular Section
U.S. Embassy in Paris, France

Bureau of African Affairs (AF)

The winner representing the Bureau of African Affairs was unable to come to Washington for the awards ceremony. Abureau representative said, “Due to concerns for the individual’ssafety, we are unable to reveal the name of AF’s FSN of the Year.”

2010 State Department Awards FSNs Extracted from State Magazine | February 2011

US Embassy #Japan Now on Authorized Departure

It looks like the US Embassy in Japan has just been declared on authorized departure for family members of mission employees in Tokyo, Yokohama and Nagoya. Authorized departure means voluntary evacuation, family members have the option to stay or go.

Via Twitter   

About an hour ago, from Laura Rozen of The Envoy:

State just called an 1130pm phone presser on Japan with U/S Pat kennedy, Deputy Energy Sec Dan Ponneman, Unusual late night presser   
about 1 hour ago  via web  

@lrozen Laura Rozen

About 600 dependents of US dip personnel in Japan affected, US will provide charter planes to help facilitate voluntary departures
32 minutes ago

@lrozen Laura Rozen

US authorizing not ordering voluntary departure of family members/dependents from USEmb Tokyo, consulate Nagoya, embassy continues to work
33 minutes ago

@W7VOA Steve Herman

US gov’t bringing aircraft to Tokyo for citizens who want to leave, authorizing voluntary departure of family members of embassy staff.   
20 minutes ago  via TweetDeck  

@chicoharlan Chico Harlan

The State Dept has authorized voluntary departure for employees in Tokyo, Yokohama and Nagoya.
18 minutes ago

Updated @1:07 am: State Department issued the following Travel Warning on March 16:

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S citizens of the deteriorating situation at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) recommends that U.S. citizens who live within 50 miles (80 km) of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant evacuate the area or take shelter indoors if safe evacuation is not practical. The State Department strongly urges U.S. citizens to defer travel to Japan at this time and those in Japan should consider departing. On March 16, 2011, the Department of State authorized the voluntary departure from Japan of eligible family members of U.S. government personnel in Tokyo, Nagoya, and Yokohama. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Alert dated March 13, 2011.

Read the whole thing here.