By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 11, 2011 - Though the Japanese government has not yet requested help in dealing with the magnitude 8.9 earthquake that hit early this morning near the coast of Honshu, U.S. forces are being readied in case such a request comes, a Defense Department spokeswoman said here today.
"We are assessing the situation and positioning forces so that they are ready to respond and provide disaster relief if directed," Navy Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde said.
Such a request would come from Japan through the U.S. State Department.
The USS Tortuga, in Sasebo, Japan, is preparing to load landing craft and to leave for the disaster areas as early as this evening.
The USS Essex, with the embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, arrived in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, this morning. The ship is preparing to depart as early as this evening.
The USS Blue Ridge, in Singapore, is taking on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief supplies and preparing to depart tomorrow morning.
The USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike group, at sea in the western Pacific on its way to Korea, can respond if directed.
"We are watching the situation closely and will adjust the track as required," Hull-Ryder said.
Earthquake impacts on 7th Fleet, with headquarters in Yokosuka, Japan, include the following:
-- Ships in port in Yokosuka stationed linehandlers to adjust to water-level changes in Yokosuka harbor. No damage has been reported to any of the ships.
-- Ships in Guam have been directed to leave if possible, or to recall personnel and adjust lines during changes in sea level.
-- Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force headquarters in Misawa was briefly evacuated. It is without power and operating from a generator.
-- Amphibious Force headquarters in White Beach, Okinawa, moved its watch to higher ground at Kadena Air Base in preparation for a forecasted tsunami.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the earthquake and subsequent tsunami was preceded by a series of large foreshocks over the past two days, beginning on March 9 with a 7.2 magnitude quake 25 miles from today's earthquake, and continuing with another three earthquakes greater than magnitude 6.0 on the same day.
The U.S. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Eva Beach, Hawaii, has issued a tsunami warning.
"A tsunami has been generated that could cause damage along coastlines of all islands in the state of Hawaii," the warning says. "Action should be taken to protect lives and property."
The zone that produced today's earthquake has produced nine temblors of magnitude 7 or greater since 1973. The largest was a December 1994 magnitude 7.8 earthquake 160 miles north of today's quake that killed three people and injured nearly 700.
President Barack Obama issued a statement this morning pledging any help Japan may need from the United States and announcing that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is preparing for potential tsunami-response operations in the United States and its territories.
"Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the people of Japan, particularly those who have lost loved ones in the earthquake and tsunamis," the statement said. "The United States stands ready to help the Japanese people in this time of great trial.
"The friendship and alliance between our two nations is unshakeable, and only strengthens our resolve to stand with the people of Japan as they overcome this tragedy," Obama added. "We will continue to closely monitor tsunamis around Japan and the Pacific going forward, and we are asking all our citizens in the affected region to listen to their state and local officials as I have instructed FEMA to be ready to assist Hawaii and the rest of the U.S states and territories that could be affected."
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