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U.S. support for Japan unwavering in face of disasters

18. March 2011. | 07:31

Source: America.gov

President Obama says the Japanese people “are not alone” as they cope with the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and continue to respond to dangers posed by the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

President Obama says the Japanese people “are not alone” as they cope with the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and continue to respond to dangers posed by the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Speaking at the White House March 17, Obama said his administration is “working aggressively” to support Japan through the efforts of U.S. civilian and military personnel and by providing humanitarian assistance.

“To date, we’ve flown hundreds of missions to support the recovery efforts and distributed thousands of pounds of food and water to the Japanese people. We’ve also deployed some of our leading experts to help contain the damage at Japan’s nuclear reactors. We’re sharing with them expertise, equipment and technology so that the courageous responders on the scene have the benefit of American teamwork and support,” Obama said.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has deployed two urban search-and-rescue teams to look for survivors, as well as a disaster assistance response team to help assess damage and coordinate a response.

The magnitude 9 earthquake was followed by a tsunami that pounded ashore in northeast Japan, crushing towns, villages and infrastructure. A resulting power failure disrupted cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, and utility workers have been working frantically to cool the cores of multiple nuclear reactors and restore water to cooling ponds where spent fuel rods are stored.

The Japanese people “will find a hand of support extended from the United States as they get back on their feet,” Obama said, paying tribute to the close alliance between the two countries over the past half century.

“Our people share ties of family, ties of culture and ties of commerce. Our troops have served to protect Japan’s shores. And our citizens have found opportunity and friendship in Japan’s cities and towns,” he said.

Obama praised the “strength and spirit” of the Japanese people in their response to the tragedy, noting the ways they have helped each other by opening up their homes and sharing scarce resources of food and water.

“They’ve organized shelters, provided free medical care and looked out for their most vulnerable citizens,” he said.

He also urged Americans to support the ongoing relief efforts by donating money to organizations listed on a USAID webpage that are providing assistance on the ground.

Earlier March 17, Obama visited the Japanese Embassy in Washington where he signed a condolence book. According to a reporter who traveled with the president to the embassy, Obama said he had wanted to express America’s heartbreak over the tragedy and assure that the United States is “doing everything we can to stand by our great friend and ally, Japan, in this hour of need.”

According to the reporter, Obama wrote in the book that “because of the strength and wisdom of its people, we know that Japan will recover, and indeed will emerge stronger than ever.” Obama also expressed his hope that the tragedy ultimate will serve to strengthen the relationship between Japan and the United States.

Obama spoke with Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan on March 16 and told him the United States will do everything possible to help Japan overcome the series of disasters that have occurred since March 11.

Secretary of Energy Steven Chu told a congressional committee March 16 that his department has sent 39 people and 17 tons of equipment to aid in the effort. The equipment includes aerial measuring devices and detectors to help detect radiation.

The Japanese government has evacuated people within 20 kilometers of the Fukushima plant due to slightly elevated radiation levels and warned those within 30 kilometers to avoid exposure by staying indoors. The U.S. government is urging Americans to retreat to a somewhat greater distance from the area based on standards used in the United States.

Despite escalating concern about a nuclear accident, the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami remain the source of greatest loss for most Japanese. Some half a million people are homeless, and the number of dead is expected to exceed 10,000.


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