WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More U.S. warships arrived off Japan’s coast on Sunday, ramping up relief efforts after a massive earthquake and tsunami killed an estimated 10,000 people or more and threatened to trigger a nuclear disaster.
It is part of a huge mobilization of American forces in the Pacific to aid close-ally Japan that will see the U.S. military ferry humanitarian supplies, evacuate survivors and shuttle Japanese troops.
Here are the latest details, as provided by the U.S. armed forces. All times are local to Japan.
* The USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group, which includes the cruiser USS Chancellorsville, the destroyer USS Preble and the combat support ship USNS Bridge, arrived on Sunday off the east coast of Honshu. It flew several H-60 helicopter missions conducting surveys of the debris field at sea and delivered four drops of humanitarian supplies ashore. Helicopters are evacuating 640 people from the city of Takata.
* The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan — once the debris field is surveyed and it is clear that the area is free of hazards to navigation — will move closer to land and serve as a platform for refueling helicopters from the Japan Self Defense Force, Japan Coast Guard and civilian authorities involved in rescue and recovery efforts. The USS Ronald Reagan has a 3,200-person Navy crew as well as 2,480 aviators and air wing personnel and approximately 85 aircraft.
* The destroyers USS Fitzgerald, USS John S. McCain, USS McCampbell and USS Curtis Wilbur are at sea east of Miyagi prefecture assisting Japanese authorities with providing at-sea search and rescue and recovery operations. An additional destroyer, USS Mustin, departed Yokosuka, Japan, on Sunday to assist as well.
* U.S. Navy P-3 “Orion” aircraft are flying missions to survey and assess the debris field at sea.
* USS Tortuga, an amphibious dock landing ship, loaded two heavy-lift MH-53 helicopters on Saturday in South Korea. It is heading to the island of Hokkaido where it will pick up 700 Japan Ground Self Defense Force personnel and bring them to Akita, Japan. It is due to arrive on Monday or Tuesday.
* USS Essex, a large amphibious assault ship, had just arrived in Malaysia when the tsunami hit. It got underway on Saturday en route to the east coast of Honshu and is expected to arrive around March 16.
* USS Blue Ridge, the U.S. Seventh Fleet command ship which the Navy describes as “the most capable command ship ever built,” had just arrived in Singapore when the tsunami hit. It immediately changed its focus to loading humanitarian assistance/disaster relief equipment. It departed Singapore on Saturday en route to the east coast of Honshu and is expected to arrive between March 16 and March 18.
* USS Harpers Ferry, a dock landing ship based in Sasebo, Japan, and the USS Germantown, an amphibious dock landing ship home-ported in San Diego, California, have been redirected to Japan from locations in Southeast Asia. Both were described as several days away.
AIRCRAFT IN POSITION IN JAPAN (includes tactical aircraft on USS Ronald Reagan):
* Approximately 33 Air Force aircraft
* Approximately 11 special forces aircraft
* Approximately 33 Marine aircraft
* Approximately 63 Navy aircraft
* Approximately five Army aircraft
* Approximately 23 Marine aircraft
* U.S. military already based in Japan is also assisting relief efforts. U.S. Forces-Japan will participate in the search-and-rescue mission to Takada. Three H-60 helicopters at Yokota air base in Japan are also standing by for assignment. Additional U.S. military forces are arriving at Marine Corps Base Iwakuni to be deployed as needed, an official said.
Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Eric Beech