|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 travel.state.gov.
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: http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/emergencies/emergencies_5392.html
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.
Travel to Safehaven Locations in Asia
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