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U.S. military delivers 40 tons of supplies to hardest-hit areas

SEOUL — U.S. military personnel have delivered 40 tons of supplies to the hardest-hit areas of Japan, as humanitarian aid continues in the face of an ever-increasing threat from the failing Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant.

The U.S. 7th Fleet reported that aircraft from the USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group flew 15 sorties Wednesday, delivering food, water, clothing, medical supplies and blankets to parts of Japan affected by Friday’s earthquake and tsunami.

Meanwhile, high-pressure water pumps were offloaded from USNS Safeguard at Yokosuka Naval Base and delivered to the Yokota Air Base for use at the Fukushima power plant. Four additional pumps were delivered from Sasebo Naval Base.

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Humanitarian missions continued Thursday with the Reagan carrier group off the east coast of Honshu. The strike group includes the cruiser USS Chancellorsville; destroyer USS Preble; combat support ship USNS Bridge; along with the guided-missile destroyers USS Fitzgerald, USS John S. McCain, USS McCampbell, USS Mustin and USS Curtis Wilbur.

The cruiser USS Cowpens canceled its scheduled Wednesday return to Yokosuka and instead transited north to rendezvous with the strike group, according to 7th Fleet.

The USS Tortuga in Tomakomai, Hokkaido, had to suspend onload operations due to visibility concerns Tuesday night, but was able to resume Wednesday morning. Throughout the day personnel loaded 93 vehicles and 273 Japan Ground Self Defense Force troops and equipment for delivery in Onimato on Thursday.

The USS Essex, USS Harpers Ferry and USS Germantown, with the embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, entered the Sea of Japan on Wednesday. In the days ahead, the 7th Fleet said, they will take position off the coast of Sakata on the western coast of Honshu to begin disaster response operations.

The west coast affords greater access to undamaged ports and roads, fewer navigational hazards, and prevailing winds that are upwind of the Fukushima power plant, according to a Navy news release. Once in place, one of the group’s primary missions will be to assist in the reopening of Sendai airport for operation.

USS Blue Ridge, flagship for the 7th Fleet, continued to steam north and was expected to arrive in the vicinity of Okinawa on Thursday. It will remain there for a few days so that reserve and other augmenting personnel can embark via helicopter, the release said.

rabiroffj@pstripes.osd.mil

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