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Military winds down Operation Tomodachi earthquake-tsunami relief

Date Posted: 2011-05-11

After six weeks, involvement of 16,000 U.S. military personnel, 15 ships and dozens of aircraft and helicopters, the U.S. military is now in the process of wrapping up Operation Tomodachi, a massive support operation aiding survivors of the March 11th 9.0 magnitude Great Tohoku Earthquake that devastated northeastern mainland Japan.

The military forces—including Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine units and personnel from Okinawa—are now airlifting personnel and supplies on an ‘as needed’ basis, but have handed over responsibilities for search-and-rescue, heavy equipment, and clean up operations to the Japan Defense Ministry. The joint Japan-U.S. coordination center is virtually a ghost town, with only a lone American still manning an operations desk.

More than 16,000 died in the afternoon earthquake and the tsunami with 50’+ waves swept across Sendai, Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures. Another 14,000 are said to still be missing and unaccounted for. The U.S. forces were on the disaster scene within 24 hours, and spent weeks hauling food and water, restored rail stations and Sendai Airport, and waded through tons of mud and debris helping JSDF clean up.

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