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U.S. Navy steps up earthquake relief efforts in Japan

NAVAL AIR STATION ATSUGI, Japan — The USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group delivered four drops of humanitarian supplies Sunday and began ongoing support of Japanese search-and-rescue helicopters, U.S. 7th Fleet officials said Sunday afternoon.

The strike group, which includes the cruiser USS Chancellorsville, the destroyer USS Preble and the combat support ship USNS Bridge, arrived along the east coast of Japan’s main Honshu island early Sunday.

Navy crews flew several SH-60 helicopter missions Sunday to conduct surveys of a debris field at sea.

Helicopters were also busy evacuating 600 people from the Takata city, 7th Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Jeff Davis said in an e-mail message.

In the coming days, the Reagan will help refuel helicopters from the Japan Self-Defense Force and assist the Japan coast guard, as well as fire, police and civilian authorities involved in rescue efforts, Davis said.

Meanwhile, the destroyers USS Fitzgerald, USS John S. McCain, USS McCampbell and USS Curtis Wilbur of the coast of Miyagi Prefecture assisting the Japanese with at-sea searches. The destroyer USS Mustin departed Yokosuka on Sunday morning to assist the other destroyers.

The USS Tortuga loaded two heavy-lift MH-53 helicopters in South Korea on Saturday, and is headed to Otaru on the island of Hokkaido. At Otaru, 700 Japan Ground Self-Defense Force personnel will board and be transported to Akita, located in the northwest corner of Honshu.

The 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge, USS Essex and its embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, USS Harpers Ferry and USS Germantown are on their way from Southeast Asia. They are expected to begin arriving March 16, Davis said.

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U.S. Navy P-3 “Orion” aircraft from VP-4 are flying missions to survey and assess debris fields at sea.

slavine@pstripes.osd.mil

 

 

 

 

 

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