The military in Hawaii is ramping up relief efforts following the tsunami and radiation crisis in Japan, preparing emergency evacuation housing at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for up to 1,400 people and continuing to send personnel and supplies to Japan.
Marine Corps Base Hawaii also is preparing emergency housing for military members and their families should an evacuation from portions of Japan be ordered due to radiation concerns, officials said. A voluntary evacuation for military families is now in place.
Two C-17 cargo aircraft transported electricity generators and Hawaii-based Air Force personnel to Japan to assess damage and conduct search and rescue and recovery operations, and additional flights are expected. About 70 airmen from Hawaii are assisting in Japan, the Air Force said.
Pearl Harbor’s shipyard sent six civilian and 14 military volunteer radiological control technicians as of Thursday to augment more than 100 radiation technicians there, officials said.
The Navy said in a news story that a radiological assistance team of 21 civilian and military shipyard personnel from Hawaii; Guam; Puget Sound, Wash.; and Norfolk, Va., deployed on the amphibious assault ship USS Essex to check for possible radiation from people and aircraft returning from missions.
Japan increased its evacuation zone to an 18-mile radius from the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant as concerns mounted that a reactor was cracked.
On March 16 the U.S. State Department authorized the voluntary evacuation of U.S. military dependents and Department of Defense civilians on Japan’s main island of Honshu.
The Denver Post said departing families have filtered through Denver, San Francisco, Travis Air Force Base in California and Seattle. The passengers were tested for radiation in Seattle.
The U.S. still is in the voluntary phase 1 of its evacuation plan for Japan, with phase 3 being an immediate evacuation, officials said.
"We’re just told to be prepared in case we reach that point," said Grace Hew Len, a Navy Region Hawaii spokeswoman. "The joint base is just leaning forward in case we get that call."
A "repatriation processing center" has been established in a recreation center to provide aid if evacuees arrive, and temporary housing would be provided in visitor quarters and barracks.
As part of relief efforts in Japan, the Navy’s Patrol Squadron 4 and its P-3 Orion reconnaissance aircraft from Kaneohe Bay were moved from Kadena Air Base on Okinawa to Naval Air Facility Misawa to provide overflights and gather information on ports, roads and infrastructure along the eastern coastline affected by the tsunami.