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Earthquake damaged houses near Kumamoto, Japan, on Tuesday, April 19, 2016. More than 40 people have died after two large earthquakes hit the region in 24 hours.

Earthquake damaged houses near Kumamoto, Japan, on Tuesday, April 19, 2016. More than 40 people have died after two large earthquakes hit the region in 24 hours. (Seth Robson/Stars and Stripes)

Takumi Hamasaki, 14, stands near earthquake-damaged homes in Mashiki, a small town near the city of Kumamoto, Japan on Tuesday, April 19, 2016.

Takumi Hamasaki, 14, stands near earthquake-damaged homes in Mashiki, a small town near the city of Kumamoto, Japan on Tuesday, April 19, 2016. (Seth Robson/Stars and Stripes)

Earthquake damaged houses near Kumamoto, Japan on Tuesday, Apirl 19, 2016. The region was hit by a 6.5 magnitude quake on April 14, then with a 7.3 quake less than 24 hours later. 


Seth Robson/Stars and Stripes

Earthquake damaged houses near Kumamoto, Japan on Tuesday, Apirl 19, 2016. The region was hit by a 6.5 magnitude quake on April 14, then with a 7.3 quake less than 24 hours later. Seth Robson/Stars and Stripes (Seth Robson/Stars and Stripes)

A Japanese Self Defense Force vehicle drives past earthquake-damaged houses near Kumamoto, Japan, on Tuesday, April 19, 2016. Thousands of Japanese people have been sleeping in the streets since two earthquakes hit the region last week.

A Japanese Self Defense Force vehicle drives past earthquake-damaged houses near Kumamoto, Japan, on Tuesday, April 19, 2016. Thousands of Japanese people have been sleeping in the streets since two earthquakes hit the region last week. (Seth Robson/Stars and Stripes)

Two earthquakes that struck within 24 hours caused landslides near Kumamoto, Japan.

Two earthquakes that struck within 24 hours caused landslides near Kumamoto, Japan. (Seth Robson/Stars and Stripes)

Takumi Hamasaki, 14, talks on the phone near earthquake-damaged homes in Mashiki, a small town near the city of Kumamoto, Japan, on Tuesday, April 16, 2016.

Takumi Hamasaki, 14, talks on the phone near earthquake-damaged homes in Mashiki, a small town near the city of Kumamoto, Japan, on Tuesday, April 16, 2016. (Seth Robson/Stars and Stripes)

A motorcyclist negotiates earthquake debris in a street near Kumamoto, Japan, on Tuesday, April 19, 2016. More than 40 people have died after two large earthquakes hit the region in 24 hours.

A motorcyclist negotiates earthquake debris in a street near Kumamoto, Japan, on Tuesday, April 19, 2016. More than 40 people have died after two large earthquakes hit the region in 24 hours. (Seth Robson/Stars and Stripes)

Earthquake damged houses near Kumamoto, Japan, on Tuesday, April 19, 2016.  Thousands of Japanese people have been sleeping in the streets since two earthquakes hit the region last week.

Earthquake damged houses near Kumamoto, Japan, on Tuesday, April 19, 2016. Thousands of Japanese people have been sleeping in the streets since two earthquakes hit the region last week. (Seth Robson/Stars and Stripes)

A Japanese Self Defense Force vehicle drives past an earthquake-damaged building near Kumamoto, Japan, on Tuesday, April 19, 2016.  Thousands of Japanese people have been sleeping in the streets since two earthquakes hit the region last week.

A Japanese Self Defense Force vehicle drives past an earthquake-damaged building near Kumamoto, Japan, on Tuesday, April 19, 2016. Thousands of Japanese people have been sleeping in the streets since two earthquakes hit the region last week. (Seth Robson/Stars and Stripes)

A man clears roof-tiles dislodged by an earthquake near Kumamoto, Japan on Tuesday.  The region was hit by a 6.5 magnitude quake on April 14, then with a 7.3 quake less than 24 hours later.

A man clears roof-tiles dislodged by an earthquake near Kumamoto, Japan on Tuesday. The region was hit by a 6.5 magnitude quake on April 14, then with a 7.3 quake less than 24 hours later. (Seth Robson/Stars and Stripes)

A man clears debris around his earthquake-damaged home near Kumamoto, Japan on Tuesday.  The region was hit by a 6.5 magnitude quake on April 14, then with a 7.3 quake less than 24 hours later.

A man clears debris around his earthquake-damaged home near Kumamoto, Japan on Tuesday. The region was hit by a 6.5 magnitude quake on April 14, then with a 7.3 quake less than 24 hours later. (Seth Robson/Stars and Stripes)

A Japan Coast Guard helicopter lands at Kumamoto Airport after dropping off medical personnel on Tuesday, April 29, 2016. The region was hit by a 6.5 magnitude quake on April 14, then with a 7.3 quake less than 24 hours later.

A Japan Coast Guard helicopter lands at Kumamoto Airport after dropping off medical personnel on Tuesday, April 29, 2016. The region was hit by a 6.5 magnitude quake on April 14, then with a 7.3 quake less than 24 hours later. (Seth Robson/Stars and Stripes)

A Japan Air Self Defense Force C-130 aircraft takes off from Kumamoto Airport after dropping off relief supplies Tuesday. The region was hit by a 6.5 magnitude quake on April 14, then with a 7.3 quake less than 24 hours later.

A Japan Air Self Defense Force C-130 aircraft takes off from Kumamoto Airport after dropping off relief supplies Tuesday. The region was hit by a 6.5 magnitude quake on April 14, then with a 7.3 quake less than 24 hours later. (Seth Robson/Stars and Stripes)

Medical personnel arrive at Kumamoto Airport on Tuesday, April 19, 2016. More than 40 people have died after two large earthquakes hit the region in 24 hours.

Medical personnel arrive at Kumamoto Airport on Tuesday, April 19, 2016. More than 40 people have died after two large earthquakes hit the region in 24 hours. (Seth Robson/Stars and Stripes)

A Japan Ground Self Defense Force helicopter hovers over Kumamoto Airport on Tuesday, April 29, 2016. Japanese and U.S. troops have been ferrying supplies to the region after two strong earthquakes hit Japan last week.

A Japan Ground Self Defense Force helicopter hovers over Kumamoto Airport on Tuesday, April 29, 2016. Japanese and U.S. troops have been ferrying supplies to the region after two strong earthquakes hit Japan last week. (Seth Robson/Stars and Stripes)

Japan Ground Self Defense Force vehicles near Kumamoto International on Tuesday, April 19, 2016.  Japanese and U.S. troops have been ferrying supplies to the region after two strong earthquakes hit Japan last week.

Japan Ground Self Defense Force vehicles near Kumamoto International on Tuesday, April 19, 2016. Japanese and U.S. troops have been ferrying supplies to the region after two strong earthquakes hit Japan last week. (Seth Robson/Stars and Stripes)

Earthquake damage to a road near Kumamoto, Japan, on Tuesday, April 19, 2016.

Earthquake damage to a road near Kumamoto, Japan, on Tuesday, April 19, 2016. (Seth Robson/Stars and Stripes)

A taxi crosses an earthquake-damaged bridge near Kumamoto, Japan, on Tuesday, April 19, 2016. Two strong earthquakes last week left roads damaged and buildings in ruin.

A taxi crosses an earthquake-damaged bridge near Kumamoto, Japan, on Tuesday, April 19, 2016. Two strong earthquakes last week left roads damaged and buildings in ruin. (Seth Robson/Stars and Stripes)

U.S. Air Force Maj. Jack Beene, 43, rests after working from Sunday night to Tuesday afternoon to help U.S. Forces fly relief supplies to Kumamoto, Japan following a major earthquake.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Jack Beene, 43, rests after working from Sunday night to Tuesday afternoon to help U.S. Forces fly relief supplies to Kumamoto, Japan following a major earthquake. (Seth Robson/Stars and Stripes)

Airmen from Yokota Air Base's 374th Airlift Wing and Japan Ground Self-Defence Force personnel offload a C-130 Hercules at Kumamoto Airport on Monday, April 18, 2016. The airlifters have delivered six JGSDF utility vehicles and several Japan self-defence force personnel since beginning the humanitarian assistance mission Monday.

Airmen from Yokota Air Base's 374th Airlift Wing and Japan Ground Self-Defence Force personnel offload a C-130 Hercules at Kumamoto Airport on Monday, April 18, 2016. The airlifters have delivered six JGSDF utility vehicles and several Japan self-defence force personnel since beginning the humanitarian assistance mission Monday. (James Kimber/Stars and Stripes)

Soldiers from the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force take a nap inside a U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules from Yokota Air Base en route to Kumamoto, Japan  Monday, April 18, 2016.

Soldiers from the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force take a nap inside a U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules from Yokota Air Base en route to Kumamoto, Japan Monday, April 18, 2016. (James Kimber/Stars and Stripes)

Airmen attached to Yokota Air Base, Japan, take a break inside their C-130 Hercules while waiting to load cargo Tuesday, April 19, 2016 in Chitose, Japan.

Airmen attached to Yokota Air Base, Japan, take a break inside their C-130 Hercules while waiting to load cargo Tuesday, April 19, 2016 in Chitose, Japan. (James Kimber/Stars and Stripes)

An airman from Yokota Air Base, Japan ties down a military utility vehicle to a U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules from Yokota Air Base, Japan Tuesday, April 19, 2016 in Chitose, Japan.

An airman from Yokota Air Base, Japan ties down a military utility vehicle to a U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules from Yokota Air Base, Japan Tuesday, April 19, 2016 in Chitose, Japan. (James Kimber/Stars and Stripes)

A Japan Ground Self-Defense Force soldier prepares to drive a military utility vehicle onto a U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules from Yokota Air Base, Japan Tuesday, April 19, 2016 in Chitose, Japan.

A Japan Ground Self-Defense Force soldier prepares to drive a military utility vehicle onto a U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules from Yokota Air Base, Japan Tuesday, April 19, 2016 in Chitose, Japan. (James Kimber/Stars and Stripes)

A Japan Ground Self-Defense Force military utility vehicle is tied down to a U.S. Air Force C130 Hercules from Yokota Air Base, Japan Tuesday, April 19, 2016 in Chitose, Japan. Yokota's airmen have delivered six vehicles and several JGSDF personnel deploying to Kumamoto, Japan.

A Japan Ground Self-Defense Force military utility vehicle is tied down to a U.S. Air Force C130 Hercules from Yokota Air Base, Japan Tuesday, April 19, 2016 in Chitose, Japan. Yokota's airmen have delivered six vehicles and several JGSDF personnel deploying to Kumamoto, Japan. (James Kimber/Stars and Stripes)

An airman from Yokota Air Base performs a preflight inspection of a C-130 Hercules at Yokota Air Base, Japan Tuesday, April 19, 2016.

An airman from Yokota Air Base performs a preflight inspection of a C-130 Hercules at Yokota Air Base, Japan Tuesday, April 19, 2016. (James Kimber/Stars and Stripes)

An airman attached to Yokota Air Base performs a preflight inspection of a C-130 Hercules at Yokota Air Base, Japan Tuesday, April 19, 2016.

An airman attached to Yokota Air Base performs a preflight inspection of a C-130 Hercules at Yokota Air Base, Japan Tuesday, April 19, 2016. (James Kimber/Stars and Stripes)

U.S. airmen and personnel from the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force inspect a Japanese military utility vehicle before loading it onto a U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules from the 374th Airlift Wing in Chitose, Japan, Tuesday, April 19, 2016. The Yokota-based airmen arrived in Chitose, about 30 miles southeast of Sapporo, Japan, to pick up vehicles and personnel deploying to Kumamoto.

U.S. airmen and personnel from the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force inspect a Japanese military utility vehicle before loading it onto a U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules from the 374th Airlift Wing in Chitose, Japan, Tuesday, April 19, 2016. The Yokota-based airmen arrived in Chitose, about 30 miles southeast of Sapporo, Japan, to pick up vehicles and personnel deploying to Kumamoto. (James Kimber/Stars and Stripes)

A Japan Ground Self-Defense Force military utility vehicle drives into a U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules from Yokota Air Base, Japan Tuesday, April 19, 2016 in Chitose, Japan. Yokota's airmen have delivered six vehicles and several JGSDF personnel deploying to Kumamoto, Japan.

A Japan Ground Self-Defense Force military utility vehicle drives into a U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules from Yokota Air Base, Japan Tuesday, April 19, 2016 in Chitose, Japan. Yokota's airmen have delivered six vehicles and several JGSDF personnel deploying to Kumamoto, Japan. (James Kimber/Stars and Stripes)

KUMAMOTO, Japan — Maj. Jack Beene hasn’t slept much in the past couple of days.

As the first U.S. troop on the ground at Kumamoto Airport since a series of earthquakes shook the region, Beene — a C-130 pilot and Japanese linguist — was charged with making sure the local airport could handle U.S. aircraft bringing in needed supplies for the disaster victims.

At the city airport, U.S. C-130 Hercules transport planes and MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft have been helping Japan Ground Self-Defense Force soldiers from the nearby Camp Takayubaru move supplies and equipment in recent days.

“There’s some damage to the airport,” Beene said during a break outside the hangar where Japanese troops were coordinating military flights into and out of Kumamoto.

But a repair team has been fixing cracks in the tarmac at night and, by Tuesday, the airport was once again open to civilian aircraft, he said.

The quake death toll rose to 45 Tuesday afternoon after the discovery of a body in southwest Japan. The Kumamoto Prefectural government estimated 183,882 residents were in emergency shelters as of Sunday night, with many others sleeping outside or in vehicles.

Monday, the first U.S. C-130 flights, out of Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo, delivered several Japanese military vehicles to Kumamoto, while two Ospreys, flying out of Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, ferried supplies, including blankets, toiletries, food and water, to a nearby stadium.

“Humanitarian assistance is one of the core missions of the C-130,” said Capt. Travis Wilkes of Yokota’s 374th Airlift Wing soon after landing at Kumamoto. He had flown in on a Hercules laden with two four-wheel-drive Mitsubishi trucks for the Japanese troops.

The Ospreys were due to deliver more relief supplies on Kyushu on Wednesday, U.S. officials said.

“The Ospreys executed a long-range mission and were able quickly deliver supplies … demonstrating [the] ability to land in remote locations on unprepared surfaces and deliver badly needed aid,” 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit commander Col. Romin Dasmalchi said in the statement.

Meanwhile, the Navy has sent nine sailors from the USS Bonhomme Richard to the Japanese helicopter destroyer JS Hyuga to help land Ospreys aboard the flat-top ship, Task Force 76 spokesman Lt. David Levy said.

While the supplies are flowing into and out of the airport, residents of nearby Mashiki have started to clear up damage despite regular aftershocks that rattle their homes.

The temblors, including a magnitude-7 shock Saturday, sent mud barreling down nearby hillsides, ripping thick clusters of bamboo from the ground. Some homes collapsed, although most appeared to have survived, with roof-damage evident from blue tarps hastily draped by their owners. Just getting to parts of the town is now a challenge because of debris and damage to bridges and road surfaces. In parts of Mashiki, the jolt lifted the pavement by 2 feet.

Takumi Hamasaki, 14, was picking up roof tiles from his front yard with his father on Tuesday.

The damage to his house is severe, but not as bad as what happened to the house across the street, which has collapsed to the point where it’s possible to touch the top of the roof while standing on the ground.

Hamasaki said he was at home with his father when the earthquake hit. The shake was so severe that the house sank several inches.

“Dishes fell out and it was in a mess,” he said. But the damage was even greater at his grandfather’s house in another part of town, Hamasaki said.

The home survived the first quake, but an aftershock caused its walls to crumble and stone walls to fall. The house didn’t collapse, but roof tiles have detached, and the collapsed walls have exposed the building’s internal beams, he said.

“I heard that one-third of the houses in Mashiki town collapsed. It’s in abject misery,” he said.

Hamasaki said he was grateful that none of his loved ones were hurt, but the family is still struggling. The damage to their homes has forced them to sleep in their car, he said.

Electricity has been restored to their part of town, but there is still no running water.

The family is surviving on emergency supplies of water, canned food and instant noodles for now.

The most urgent need for Mashiki residents is drinking water.

“The water out of the faucet is dirty, so I want water I can easily drink,” Hamasaki said.

Meanwhile, Beene, who was sporting a three-day growth on his chin, was preparing to wrap up his part of the mission and board a flight out of Kumamoto.

“I haven’t enjoyed not taking a shower for several days, but my suffering is very small compared to the people who have lost their homes,” he said.

Many of the Japanese soldiers now at the airport live nearby. Some have lost their homes and been forced to move their families to Camp Takayubaru. Children’s shouts and laughter echoed around the hangar where the Marines were working.

Beene can empathize with the Japanese troops. He was deployed to Afghanistan out of Yokota in March 2011 when the last major earthquake struck Japan. At the time, he had some nervous Skype conversations with his family about the disaster, he said.

James Kimber and Erik Slavin contributed to this report.

robson.seth@stripes.com Twitter: @SethRobson1

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.
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Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.
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