Eight warships are headed to Japan to render disaster relief in the wake of a catastrophic magnitude 8.9 earthquake that left hundreds dead Friday. The quake unleashed a tsunami that is tearing across the Pacific. It unmoored two subs and is forcing other ships to get underway or ease their lines as the surge waters arrive, according to updates posted on official Navy Facebook pages across the region.
The earthquake, the most devastating to have struck Japan since the country began tracking seismic activity more than a century ago, leveled homes and buildings, and spawned a 23-foot high wave that carried away cars and people.
Japan has requested aid through the State Department, Armed Forces Press Service reported Friday.
Our deepest sympathies go out to our close friends in Japan as they deal with this tragedy,” Adm. Patrick Walsh, Pacific Fleet commander, said statement posted on his Facebook page. “U.S. Pacific Fleet is making preparations and posturing our naval assets to provide assistance when directed. We stand ready to support those in need. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Japan.”
None of the 38,000 military personnel assigned to Japan are dead, Pentagon spokesman Marine Col. Dave Lapan said Friday. He said six ships are headed to Japan to render aid, if called upon: the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan; amphibious assault ship Essex; dock landing ships Germantown, Tortuga and Harpers Ferry; and amphibious command ship Blue Ridge.
In addition, cruiser Chancellorsville and destroyer Preble, along with Reagan, have been ordered to “proceed at best safe speed toward Japan,” Pacific Fleet said on its Facebook page at noon Eastern time.
“We’re doing all of the planning that you would expect … to determine exactly which ship will need to go where, if we get directed,” said Pacific Fleet spokesman Capt. Jeff Breslau. “And then again, continue to move the ships so that we’re ready to go.”
In Guam, the tsunami snapped mooring lines to two attack submarines, Houston and City of Corpus Christi. Tug boats immediately responded. “Both subs are safe and under the control of the tug boats,” Joint Region Marianas posted on its Facebook page. No injuries have been reported. Both subs were tied up to the pier shortly afterwards and without significant damages, Breslau said.
In Japan, no facilities damage was reported. The headquarters of Combined Task Force 72 Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force in Misawa, Japan, was evacuated and without power, according to an update just after 5 a.m. Eastern time by 7th Fleet. And the staff of Combined Task Force 76 Amphibious Force at White Beach, Okinawa, retreated to higher ground at Kadena Air Base.
7th Fleet directed ships in Guam to get underway, if practical.
There were no reports of damage to the aircraft carrier George Washington, which was in port in Yokosuka, Japan.
Tortuga is headed for Pohang, South Korea, where it will embark MH-53 heavy lift helicopters, said Navy spokesman Lt. Myers Vasquez, who also said that all 7th Fleet ships, except Washington and the destroyer Lassen, must be ready to go to sea within 24 hours. The Reagan strike group is sailing for the northwest coast of Honshu, Japan, hard-hit by the tsunami, and is expected to arrive within a day, Vasquez said.
In Hawaii, there was no reported damage to ships or facilities as the tsunami passed through. Army Logistics Support Vessel CW3 Harold Clinger left port Friday due to its berth close to the mouth of Pearl Harbor, Navy Region Hawaii said in a press release.
The Pacific Missile Range Facility on the island of Kauai was evacuated, but wasn’t damaged by the ocean surge, Navy Region Hawaii said. In addition, three torpedo retrievers in Port Allen were sent out to sea, two helicopters were moved to Lihue, and two range support C-26 aircraft are in the air.
In another post soon after, officials said that “the Navy is closely monitoring wave assessments inside Pearl Harbor and indicated that there is no need to sortie ships at this time.”
Pentagon spokesman Lapan said the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group is bound for Guam, as planned.
The aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, returning from a six-month deployment to 5th Fleet, pulled into Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Thursday, according to its official Facebook page. Lincoln closed the brow as the tsunami passed through in the early morning and opened it for liberty call five hours later, at about 1:15 p.m. Eastern time.
Smaller tides of two or three feet were expected to reach southern California, where 3rd Fleet and I Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton are wrapping up an offshore logistics exercise at the amphibious training base. Naval Beach Group 1 units participating in the Pacific Horizon exercise moved some encampments “to higher ground” as a precaution as they wrap up the training, said Cmdr. Gregory Hicks, a fleet spokesman.
Fleet officials ordered ships in San Diego to remain in port, with sailors standing by to tend lines Friday morning. The transport dock Dubuque, which was doing an ammunition onload at Seal Beach Naval Weapon Station near Long Beach, was ordered to sortie offshore as a precautionary measure, Hicks said.
story by: Sam Fellman
photos courtesy of: www.adelaidenow.com