RESCUE AND RELIEF AFTER THE MARCH 2011 TSUNAMI IN JAPAN:

RESCUE AND RELIEF, REBUILDING AFTER GREAT EAST JAPAN EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI OF MARCH 11, 2011

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Supplies and Rescue Units Blocked
The Los Angeles Times reported: In the days immediately after the earthquake and tsunami almost 2 million households were without power in the freezing north and about 1.4 million were without running water. NHK reported that many survivors faced "extreme cold" at night in buildings where heat and fuel were scarce. Even in Tokyo, which was spared major damage from the quake, power outages and highway closures persisted Sunday and the city's transit network was shut down. [Source: Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times, March 13, 2011]

The government ordered 107,000 troops in Japan’s Self Defense Force (SDF, Japan’s military) into relief roles in the field---nearly half the country’s active military force of 230,000 and the largest mobilization in postwar Japan. “All SDF units were mobilized, except for essential personnel, such as those on call for [for military emergencies] and those who conduct surveillance,” an SDF spokesman said. A total of 236 aircraft and 50 vessels, including destroyers and C-130 cargo planes, were deployed. Units of the Central Nuclear Biological Chemical Weapon Defense Unit were sent help with the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Within two days after the quake Japan's Health and Welfare Ministry sent about a hundred vehicles out to supply water to quake-damaged areas, and government officials were distributing 120,000 blankets, 120,000 bottles of water and 29,000 gallons of gasoline, NHK and Kyodo reported. But transportation was difficult. At that juncture, 62 landslides had been reported and 29 bridges were out, according to NHK. [Ibid]

“Meanwhile,” the Los Angeles Times reported, “rescuers attempted to reach outlying areas in the northern Tohoku region where hundreds were still trapped Monday, including 800 people holed up in a gym and 600 in a shopping center, according to NHK. In Iwate prefecture, 300 stranded high school students awaited rescue on a playground, NHK reported. [Ibid]

“After the earthquake and tsunami rescuers struggled to reach survivors.” Harlan wrote in the Washington Post. “With roads pretzeled and fuel in high demand along the undamaged routes heading north, the government will depend on ships and aircraft for the rescue work. Japan is sending 195 aircraft and 25 vessels to the disaster area, according to Kyodo. U.S. ships will join them for search-and-rescue missions.” [Source: Chico Harlan, Washington Post, March 12, 2011]

“The country was mobilizing a nationwide rescue effort to pluck survivors from collapsed buildings and rush food and water to hundreds of thousands of people without water, electricity, heat or telephone service....Recovery operations are being hampered by the scale of wreckage.” [Ibid]

According to Yomiuri Shimbun survey, 82 percent of Japanese thought Japan’s military did a good job during the disaster but only 6 percent thought the national government did a good job. Other groups that faired well including volunteers (73 percent performed well) and firefighters (52 percent performed well). Groups that got less than a 50 percent approval rating were local government in disaster areas (42 percent), police (40 percent), local government outside disaster areas (32 percent) and companies (24 percent).

Rescue missions from 29 countries and territories were dispatched to the disaster-struck areas.

Websites, Links and Resources

Links to Articles in this Website About the 2011 Tsunami and Earthquake: 2011 EAST JAPAN EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI: DEATH TOLL, GEOLOGY AND THEORIES Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; ACCOUNTS OF THE 2011 EARTHQUAKE Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; DAMAGE FROM 2011 EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS AND SURVIVOR STORIES Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; TSUNAMI WIPES OUT MINAMISANRIKU Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; SURVIVORS OF THE 2011 TSUNAMI Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; DEAD AND MISSING FROM THE 2011 TSUNAMI Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; RESCUE, RELIEF, REBUILDING AFTER TSUNAMI Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; LIFE FOR SURVIVORS AFTER THE TSUNAMI Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; CRISIS AT THE FUKUSHIMA NUCLEAR POWER PLANT Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; TEPCO, AND THE SAFETY OF FUKUSHIMA NUCLEAR PLANT Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; MELTDOWNS AT THE FUKUSHIMA Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; EARLY HOURS AT FUKUSHIMA AFTER THE TSUNAMI STRUCK Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; WHO’s TO BLAME FOR THE FUKUSHIMA Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; DAMAGE CONTROL AT FUKUSHIMA NUCLEAR POWER PLANT Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; RADIATION RELEASED FROM FUKUSHIMA Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; IMPACT OF EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI OF MARCH 11, 2011 ON TOKYO, TRANSPORTATION AND ELECTRICITY Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; IMPACT OF 2011 EAST JAPAN EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI ON THE ECONOMY Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; NUCLEAR ENERGY IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ;

Links to Articles in this Website About Earthquakes, Volcanoes and Tsunamis: VOLCANOS AND JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; MAJOR VOLCANOS AND ERUPTIONS IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; EARTHQUAKES AND JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; EARTHQUAKES AND LIFE IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; LARGE EARTHQUAKES IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; KOBE EARTHQUAKE OF 1995 Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; LARGE EARTHQUAKES IN JAPAN IN THE 2000s Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; TSUNAMIS IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan

Good Websites and Sources on Tsunamis: Wikipedia article on Tsunamis Wikipedia ; Surviving a Tsunami, Lessons from Chile, Hawaii and Japan pubs.usgs.gov ; Tsunami Warning System in Japan jma.go.jp/jma ; Tsunami Warnings from Japan Meteorological Agency jma.go.jp/en/tsunami ; Book: Tsunami: The Underrated Hazard by Edward Bryant. Tsunamis That Struck Japan Major Tsunamis in Japan in the 20th Century tsunami.civil.tohoku.ac.jp ; Major Earthquakes and Tsunamis in Japan in the 20th Century drgeorgepc.com ; 1933 Earthquake and Tsunami pdf file cidbimena.desastres.hn ; 1983 Tsunami drgeorgepc.com ; Report on the 1993 Tsunami nctr.pmel.noaa.gov ; Small Tsunami in 2010 reuters.com ;

Good Websites and Sources on Earthquakes: U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Earthquake Information Center earthquake.usgs.gov ; Wikipedia article on Earthquakes Wikipedia ; Earthquake severity pubs.usgs.gov ; USGS Earthquake Frequently Asked Questions earthquake.usgs.gov/learn/faq ; Collection of Images from Historic Earthquakes Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center, Jan Kozak Collection ; World Earthquake Map iris.edu/seismon ; Most Recent Earthquakes earthquake.usgs.gov ; Interactive Earthquake Guide guardian.co.uk ; USGS Earthquakes for Kids earthquake.usgs.gov/learn/kids ; Earthquake Preparedness and Safety Surviving an Earthquake edu4hazards.org ; Earthquake Pamphlet pubs.usgs.gov ; Earthquake Preparedness Guide earthquakepreparednessguide.com ; Earthquake Safety Site earthquakecountry.info ;

Earthquake Information for Japan Earthquake Information from Japan Meteorological Agency jma.go.jp/en/quake ; F-Net Broadband Seismography Network fnet.bosai.go.jp ; USGS Japan Earthquake Information earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/world ; Tectonics and Volcanos of Japan volcano.oregonstate.edu ; MCEER Earthquake Engineering on Major Earthquakes in Japan in the 20th Century mceer.buffalo.edu ; Major Earthquakes in Japan in the 20th Century drgeorgepc.com ; Sesimic Hazard Map earthquake.usgs.gov ; Earthquake Density Map earthquake.usgs.gov ; Seismicity Map earthquake.usgs.gov ; Blogs About Japanese Earthquakes blogged.com/topics/japan-earthquake ; Geological Maps aist.go.jp/GSJ ; Earthquake Engineering and Disaster Prevention: Disaster Prevention Research Institute, University of Kyoto dpri.kyoto-u.ac.jp/web ; Japan Association of Earthquake Engineering jaee.gr.jp/english ; Earthquake Preparedness in Japan Earthquake Preparedness Survey whatjapanthinks.com ;U.S. Embassy Disaster Preparedness Checklist tokyo.usembassy.gov ; U.K. Embassy on Earthquake Preparedness v ; Report on Fastening Furniture pdf file iiasa.ac.at/Research/RAV ;Earthquake Preparedness Guide earthquakepreparednessguide.com ;

Earthquake Research in Japan: Headquarters of Earthquake Research Promotion jishin.go.jp ; Active Fault Research Center unit.aist.go.jp ; Institute of Geology and Geoinformation unit.aist.go.jp ; Tokai Earthquake Prediction from Japan Meteorological Agency jma.go.jp/en/quake_tokai ;Research Center for Earthquake Prediction, University of Kyoto rcep.dpri.kyoto-u.ac.jp ; Earthquake Prediction Research Center, Tokyo University eri.u-tokyo.ac.jp/ ; Earthquake and Science Museums Shinagawa City Disaster Prevention site city.shinagawa.tokyo.jp ; Earthquake Museum (Kita Ward, near the Nishigahara Station on the Naboku subway line), Tokyo Essentials tokyoessentials.com ; Honjo Life Safety Learning Center (Sumida Ward) simulates an earthquake and fire in a 3-D theater. There is also a room that simulates a storm with wind sped of 30 meters per second. Tokyo City PDF file bousai.metro.tokyo.jp

Recent Earthquakes in Japan : USGS Last Earthquake in Japan neic.usgs.gov/neis/last_event/world_japan ; Recent Earthquakes eri.u-tokyo.ac.jp ; Info for the Previous Week jma.go.jp/en/quake ; Major Earthquakes in Japan Wikipedia List of Earthquakes in Japan Wikipedia ; USGS Historic Earthquakes earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/world/historical ;Major Earthquakes in Japan in the 20th Century drgeorgepc.com ; 1923 Tokyo Earthquake: 1923 Tokyo Earthquake Images eas.slu.edu/Earthquake_Center ; Great Kanto earthquake of 1923 dl.lib.brown.edu/kanto ; 1923 Tokyo Earthquake Photo Gallery japan-guide.com ; Earthquake Pictures: Earthquake Image Archive geot.civil.metro-u.ac.jp ; BBC Pictures of 2007 Niigata Earthquake BBC Pictures of 2007 Niigata Earthquake ; Kobe Earthquake Site seismo.unr.edu

Account of the Mayor of Ishinomaki

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Seach Teams
Hiroshi Kameyama, the mayor of Ishinomaki, was 35 miles down the coast in Sendai attending a symposium on the commercialization of algae. After the quake and tsunami he telephoned his wife. She said their house was filling with water. She was on the second floor with the mayor’s 92-year-old mother, enduring a barrage of aftershocks. He immediately told his driver to drive him home. [Source: Andrew Higgins, Brigid Schulte and Joel Achenbach, Washington Post, March 29, 2011]

The Washington Post reported: “The roads had been crumpled by the temblor, and Kameyama’s driver made slow progress. The mayor noticed rice fields that were inundated. But it couldn’t be so: They had taken a route away from the coast, miles from the sea. Night fell. Not until 10 p.m. did they reach the center of the city. A journey that would normally take 45 minutes had lasted seven hours.” [Ibid]

“With no electricity to power streetlights or homes, it was pitch dark. The mayor got out to walk the rest of the way to his office, but the water was too high. His mobile phone went dead.”Everything was sinking,” he said. In City Hall, hundreds of bureaucrats were marooned on the upper floors of the hulking pink building. Originally a department store, it had few windows. All the exits were submerged. An emergency generator provided flickering light.”

“Around 11, he finally reached a makeshift emergency command center in Ishinomaki’s Red Cross Hospital, located on high ground about 2 ½ miles from the sea. The mayor huddled with Self-Defense Forces officers on the second floor, grappling with agonizing decisions about how to deploy the few resources still under their control---a handful of ambulances that hadn’t been swept away, a few doctors who had managed to reach higher ground.” [Ibid]

“The aftershocks continued to rattle the darkened city. “It was total chaos. I had to be very strict,” the mayor said later. He ordered the hospital to admit only those in need of treatment and turn away others who simply needed a safe place to stay. As temperatures dipped to near freezing, tens of thousands of residents were left to fend for themselves.” [Ibid]

Japanese Military Response to the Disaster

The Self-Defense Forces mobilized 100,000 personnel for rescue and restoration operations in the disaster-hit areas, the largest-ever deployment of its kind. A Defense Ministry's white paper issued in August 2011 revealed that up to 107,000 SDF troops were mobilized each day for a relief operation in a "maximum exercise of SDF powers” in the aftermath of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear power plant crisis. Twenty-two pages are spent featuring the SDF's rescue operations and water-injection measures at the Fukushima nuclear plant. Despite the deployment of 100,000 SDF personnel for the operations, there are no graphics or charts to make the efforts understandable at a glance.

A Defense Ministry's white paper issued in August 2011 praised Operation Tomodachi following the March 11 disaster. It states the joint activities conducted by the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. forces will "further deepen the Japan-U.S. alliance in the future." The Japan-U.S. joint operations are featured in the opening chapter of the white paper. Regarding Operation Tomodachi, the white paper says the experience of joint drills by the SDF and the U.S. military paid off at the time of the disaster, and the operation was "particularly important to secure the life and safety of affected people."

United States and Relief Efforts After the Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011

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U.S. Navy Helps Move Supplies
The U.S. forces conducted Operation Tomodachi in which about 20,000 U.S. military personnel engaged in rescue work such as searching for missing victims. U.S. President Barack Obama said the United States “stands ready to help” Japan deal with the aftermath. “Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the people of Japan.” During a visit to the Japanese embassy in Washington he wrote in the condolence book: “My heart goes out to the people of Japan during this enormous tragedy. Please know that America will always stand by one of its greatest allies during this time of need. Because of the strength and wisdom of its people, we know that Japan will recover, and indeed will emerge stronger than ever. And as it recovers, the memory of those who have been lost will remain in our hearts, and will serve only to strengthen the relationship between our two countries. May God bless the people of Japan.

In a statement on the crisis in Japan at the White House Mr. Obama said: “Over the last several days, the American people have been both heartbroken and deeply concerned about the developments in Japan. We’ve seen an earthquake and tsunami render unimaginable---an unimaginable toll of death and destruction on one of our closest friends and allies in the world.

Helicopters and ships from the United States Seventh Fleet joined the tsunami relief effort.An American naval strike group led by the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan arrived off Japan to help with refueling, supply and rescue duties. American military airfields in Japan began accepting civilian flights diverted from airports that suffered damage. Naval Air Field Atsugi had received several commercial passenger planes that could not land at Narita airport outside Tokyo. Three American warships in Southeast Asia were ordered out to sea to reposition themselves in case they need to provide assistance.

Initially American military search and rescue teams help search for survivors and bodies. Once the relief effort got going American soldiers delivered water and other supplies and helped Japanese residents clean up debris and look for cherished possessions. Shallow-bottom U.S. Marine Corps landing craft were put to use bringing in generators and other heavy machinery that helped restore electricity in places where ships couldn’t dock because port facilities had been destroyed. Large U.S. Navy barges were used to carry drinking water and deliver water to workers battling the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plan. The various activities were part of Operation Tomodachi (“tomodachi” is friend in Japanese), who main mission was supporting Japanese Self Defense Forces. As of late March 19 ships, 133 aircraft and 18,000 personnel had taken part, delivering 240 tons of relief supplies. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, April 5, 2011]

By late April Operation Soul Train was winding up and replaced by “Operation Soul Train,” a project to clear debris from train stations and railway tracks on the JR Seneski Line in Miyagi Prefecture.

France, along with the United States, is providing technical advice and tons of material as the authorities grapple with the crisis at Fukushima nuclear power plant. French president Nicolas Sarkozy was the first world leader to visit Japan after the earthquake and tsunami.

Government Response to After the Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011

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Cleaning Up
In the early days after the earthquake and tsunami Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan and other top government officials for the most part wore blue work uniforms when they appeared on television. About three weeks after the disaster they began wearing regular suits at press conferences, relegating their blue uniforms to periods when they were in the field.

In early April the Japanese government said it planed to at ask for $35 billion in additional funds in an extra budget to cover reconstruction programs. The money would mainly be used to dispose of rubble and debris and build temporary housing for survivors. Officials said the government would not issue bonds but rather planned to pay for this early stage of reconstruction by borrowing money from pension funds and canceling plans to make highways toll-free. Many felt the government plan to continue child subsidies was wasteful and the money would be better spent helping earthquake survivors. In the long term many analysts felt a tax increase to pay for reconstruction was unavoidable. Officials said several extra budgets would be necessary to deal with the impact of disaster. Plan to reform the tax and pensions had to take a back-seat to dealing with disaster.

In April, the Japanese government said it would shorten the period required for the presumption of death of persons missing in disasters from the current one year to three months to speed up the payments of life insurance benefits, pension payments and compensation to families of missing people presumed to have been killed in the March 11 disaster. Around the same time the Japanese government placed a paid ad in the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, the International Herald Tribune, China’s People Daily, South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo and other major international newspapers to thank “people from around the world” for “bringing hope and inspiring courage...at that desperate time.” “We deeply appreciate the Kizuna [bonds of friendship] our friends around the world have shown,” the ad said.

The government of Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan was generally given poor marks by the Japanese public for its handling of the earthquake and tsunami crisis. In an April Yomiuri Shimbun poll, 70 percent of those who responded said that Kan was unable to exercise leadership during the crisis. Many respondents said they were unhappy about the government response to the Fukushima nuclear power plant crisis and the failure of the government to release important information about the crisis. Support for the Kan cabinet was 31 percent, a seven percent increase from before the quake, but Kan’s party---the Democratic Party of Japan---didn’t fo very well in elections held a month after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Kan made three visits to the disaster-hit region as of mid April: 1) an ariel inspection of the region by helicopter the day after the quake and tsunami; 2) a visit to shelter and a ground inspection of the devastated town of Rikusentakata in Iwate Prefecture on April 2; and visit to the decimated fishing village of Ishinomaki on April 10. The helicopter survey of the Fukushima nuclear power plant was criticized because it reportedly delayed some action---the release of steam from inside the containment vessel of reactor No. 1---taken to contain the crisis at the power plant.

Relief workers reported “too many blankets,” “too much clothing: and “a lot broken bikes.”

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, The Guardian, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated November 2012

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