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From staff reports

Some 86,000 U.S. servicemembers, civilian defense employees and their family members in Japan are believed safe after a massive one-two punch from a historic earthquake and ensuing tsunami, Defense Department officials said Friday morning.

“All of the different forces in Japan and in the surrounding area are going through 100 percent accountability checks,” said Col. Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman. “So far everyone’s been accounted for, but those accountability checks are going on in those locations.”

There had been no significant damage to U.S. ships, aircraft, or facilities, either, Lapan said.

“While we can positively confirm right now the U.S. assets, we can’t forget the Japanese population,” Lapan said.

Witnesses have reported hundreds of bodies floating in water left behind by massive waves that hit eastern Japan after the magnitude-8.9 quake.

Eyewitness reports indicated that one of the hardest hit U.S. facilities appears to be one closest to the epicenter of the quake off the east coast Honshu: Misawa Air Base lost electricity and telecommunications after the massive quake, and technicians were still struggling to bring power back up many hours later.

Meanwhile at the Yokosuka Naval Base, personnel were barred from tall buildings that are feared to have sustained quake-related damage. The carrier USS George Washington is currently docked at Yokosuka undergoing maintenance, but the area felt little effects from the tsunami, officials said.

Sasebo Naval Base and Yokota Air Base are also believed to have escaped damage.

Yokota, located outside Tokyo, accepted civilian flights diverted from Narita Airport, which suffered damaged terminals. Airport officials were handing out water, crackers and blankets as evening arrived.

“Not leaving anytime soon,” one passenger told a Stars and Stripes editor.

Some 537 passengers aboard two Delta airliners were being housed overnight at Yokota’s community center until the planes could fly out Saturday, base spokeswoman Capt. Tania Bryan said. Another nine aircraft were expected to leave Yokota later Friday night, and no additional diverted planes were expected at Yokota, she said.

From Japan to Hawaii to the U.S. West Coast, personnel and equipment near coastlines were moved out of the way of tsunami waves. Their power was evident on Guam, where the submarines USS Houston and USS City of Corpus Christi broke free from their mooring lines. Tug boats from Naval Base Guam responded quickly, and both submarines are safe, a base official said.

Army sources reported that aviation assets in Pacific regions had been moved to higher ground. On Okinawa, Marine Corps Bases Japan announced that it had activated its Base Emergency Operations Center to monitor the situation and coordinate Marine Corps actions. Residents in low-lying areas on Camp Foster, lower Camp Lester and Camp Kinser have been evacuated as a precautionary measure.

Thousands of miles away, near San Diego, the U.S. Dubuque amphibious transport dock ship had set sail from Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station to avoid tsunami damage, officials said. Other ships at the facility were deemed safe.


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