US Offering Aid to Japan Quake Victims
WASHINGTON (AP) _ U.S. military forces stand ready to provide anything from cots to heavy equipment to help Japan recover from its devastating earthquake, Pentagon officials say.
And a technical team of government highway, building, fire and earthquake experts is set to depart for Japan as early as this weekend, Transportation Department officials said Tuesday.
President Clinton offered assistance during a visit Tuesday to California, where he was assessing recovery from an earthquake there a year ago. Clinton said America’s top military officer _ Gen. John Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff _ was already in Japan on other business and had promised U.S. military support.
On his return flight to Washington, Clinton phoned Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama to express condolences to the families of victims and to personally extend the U.S. offer to aid in the recovery effort.
``The prime minister accepted the offer of assistance; he was grateful for it,″ White House press secretary Mike McCurry said.
Murayama said the most urgent need was to locate the missing, and Clinton agreed, McCurry said. The two leaders also pledged to coordinate efforts over the next several days on just what role the United States could play in the recovery.
Some 47,000 U.S. military men and women are stationed in Japan. About half are on Okinawa, an island far south of the area where the tremor struck, said Maj. Steve Manuel, a Pentagon spokesman.
``We can do anything _ send heavy equipment, blankets, you name it,″ he said.
If the Japanese ask for equipment to clear highways or damaged buildings, military engineers based in the Pacific region can provide it, Manuel said.
Water purification equipment would also be made available, as would any kind of medical assistance, he said, noting that U.S. military forces often help in disaster relief missions.
No U.S. military facilities were damaged, nor were any personnel injured in the quake, said Ken Bacon, another Pentagon spokesman.
The team of government experts scheduled to go to Japan is being organized through the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology. Spokeswoman Janice Kosko said the group will be drawn from the Federal Highway Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey, the standards institute, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Science Foundation.
The highway administration said it will offer aid from engineers who studied damage to roads and structures in last year’s California quake.
The Transportation Department conducts cooperative research with the Japanese, particularly in finding ways to resist earthquake damage, said Jim Pinkelman, a highway administration spokesman.
``We’re not talking about repairing roads,″ but rather offering expertise learned from the damage in the Los Angeles quake, he said.