Obama Administration Reacts to Japanese Earthquake; Braces for Pacific Tsunami

Mar 11, 2011 7:46am

President Obama was woken at 4 am ET Friday to be told about the earthquake in Japan and the resulting tsunami in the Pacific, as the U.S. government prepared for the disaster to hit American shores.

"The United States stands ready to help the Japanese people in this time of great trial," President Obama said in a statement. "We will continue to closely monitor tsunamis around Japan and the Pacific going forward and we are asking all our citizens in the affected region to listen to their state and local officials as I have instructed FEMA to be ready to assist Hawaii and the rest of the US states and territories that could be affected."

A Pentagon official said that US Pacific Command is sending P-3 Orion maritime surveillance aircraft to support the Japanese government by providing aerial reconnaissance.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that tsunami warnings and watches have been issued for the U.S. territories of Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, and portions of coastal areas in Hawaii, Alaska, California, Oregon and Washington state. President Obama said "we are in close contact and coordination with state and local officials and stand ready to support them in any way needed.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by this tragedy."

The Pentagon said there was no reported damage to any US ships or facilities based in Japan, with all US military personnel in Japan accounted for. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said that US Ambassador to Japan John Roos has moved the US Embassy's command center "to an alternate location as a precaution given the many aftershocks in Tokyo."

In Hawaii, the Pacific Fleet announced that as a precaution, Ford Island Bridge at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam will be closed beginning at 2:30 a.m. local time. The decision has been made that Navy ships at Pearl Harbor should ride out any potential Tsunami . The expectation is that the wave should be 3.5 feet in height.  “there is no intention to move any ships” said a Pentagon official . The carrier USS Ronald Reagan is being moved to Japan just in case she is needed for helicopter support.

"Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the people of Japan, particularly those who have lost loved ones in the earthquake and tsunamis," the president said in a statement. "Our immediate priority is the safety of the people and communities in the affected areas.  We remind everyone who lives in the region to monitor their local news for instructions from their state and local officials and if told to evacuate – evacuate."

-Jake Tapper and Luis Martinez

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