Earlier today, the Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs, Janice L. Jacobs gave a special briefing via telcon on the Japan earthquake.
Consular Task Force Japan: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tsunami Zone Overseas Outside of Japan: email@example.com
Phone number for DOD personnel and family members: 1-800-342-9647
Phone number for people in the United States & Canada. 1-888-407-4747
Excerpts from briefing:
At this point, we have received no reports of U.S. citizens killed or injured in Japan. Our Embassy and our consulates in Japan are working to obtain information on the status of U.S. citizens and to provide assistance as necessary.
We know that many people are worried about the welfare of their friends and family in Japan. We understand also that some telephone landlines there are disrupted. We are recommending that people try contacting loved ones in Japan by email, text, SMS message, or social media.
We have stood up a consular Task Force that will be responding to concerns about specific U.S. citizens in Japan. People may email the taskforce at firstname.lastname@example.org. And I’ll repeat that, email@example.com. Concerns about specific U.S. citizens in the tsunami zone overseas outside of Japan should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Again, I’ll repeat, email@example.com.
So that we may properly pursue your inquiry, we will need information about the person in Japan who may need assistance. For each person, please be sure you send us the person’s full name, date of birth, place of birth, as much information as possible regarding their physical location and contact information within Japan. And also please send us any information that you feel is important for us to know such as any preexisting medical conditions or whether you or your loved one is either elderly or a child in Japan without his or her parent.
We also have a phone line for persons who do not have access to email. We ask people to use our email boxes if possible. Email allows us to gather accurate, important information quickly and ensures that its submission is not delayed by call volume. Our phone line in the United States and Canada is 1-888-407-4747. Again, 1-888-407-4747.
We’ve issued a Travel Alert strongly urging U.S. citizens to avoid tourism and nonessential travel to Japan. You may view that Travel Alert and all of our information updates on travel.state.gov. Our alert is also advising U.S. citizens to take basic earthquake safety precautions as aftershocks are expected. Warden messages are going out to U.S. citizens in countries that are under tsunami warning.
On US Embassy Tokyo's relocation to an alternate location:
ASSISTANT SECRETARY JACOBS: This is Janice. I think just as a precautionary measure, they moved people – some of the people out of the Embassy building today. And the consular team is in a nearby location, not far away. And so that was just done, I think, really to make sure that everyone was safe. I don’t have any information about when they might be moving back, but I do know that the consular section and the consular people are in full operation and reaching out and helping Americans from where they are.I wonder if the move to the alternate location has something to do, too with its communication lines. The 2008 OIG report of US Mission Japan specifically warns about the disruption of communication lines in the event of an earthquake:
"Embassy Tokyo’s alternate communication path is totally reliant on landlines.Japan, of course, is an earthquake-prone post. Back in 1995, the US Consulate General Osaka properties suffered extensive damage due to an earthquake and resulted in the loss of the principal officer’s residence.
This path is inadequate to address all possible emergencies. Japan is in an active
earthquake region, and recent earthquakes have severed undersea cables that have
caused disruption of Embassy Tokyo’s communication. The loss of landlines in case
of an emergency will result in the loss of all communication with Embassy Tokyo.
The embassy should have an alternate communication path that can be utilized in
case of landline disruption."
The June 2008 OIG inspection report also indicates that there are approximately 680 employees at US Mission Japan, about 270 direct hire American employees and some 400 local hire (includes Japanese and US citizen residents in country). I would not expect these numbers to be significantly different today.
The 2-year old report did not provide an estimate of the US citizen population in Tokyo and the constituent posts but did point out that Japan has the fourth largest social security beneficiary population in the world. The number of beneficiaries in Japan increased by 300 percent from 8,500 in 2005 to 34,434 in January 2008.
For Japanese and other foreign nationals from the Pacific stranded in the United States due to the earthquakes and tsunami devastation: If you have exceeded or are about to exceed your authorized stay in the U.S. you may be permitted up to an additional 30 days to depart. If you are at an airport, you're supposed to contact the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office at the airport. All others should check with their local U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office.
- The USS Tortuga, in Sasebo, Japan, is preparing to load landing craft and to leave for the disaster areas as early as this evening.
- The USS Essex, with the embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, arrived in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, this morning. The ship is preparing to depart as early as this evening.
- The USS Blue Ridge, in Singapore, is taking on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief supplies and preparing to depart tomorrow morning.
- The USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike group, at sea in the western Pacific on its way to Korea, can respond if directed.
USAID is dispatching a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) and has mobilized its partners, the Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Team and the Los Angeles County Search and Rescue Team. Each USAR team will be composed of approximately 72 personnel, search and rescue canines and approximately 75 tons of rescue equipment. The USAR teams will be accompanied by USAID disaster experts who will assist with assessments of the situation.
How to help:
Interaction Guide on How to Help
See list of 19 different InterAction members accepting donations for the earthquake/tsunami relief.