As Japan continues to reel from two deadly earthquakes that struck the southern part of the country on Thursday and Saturday -- registering at 6.5-magnitude and 7.3, respectively -- the United States Forces there announced Sunday it would provide U.S. assistance in the Japanese government's search and recovery efforts.
Four U.S. Marine MV-22 Ospreys have since arrived at the Marine base in Iwakuni, Japan, to assist with quake relief efforts. Iwakuni is on the main island, southwest of Hiroshima, about 150 miles from the quake zone in Kyushu.
Four other Ospreys were on standby and available to assist if needed.
"We express our deepest condolences to all of those affected by the recent earthquakes in Kyushu," Lt. Gen. John Dolan, commander of U.S. Forces, Japan, said in an initial statement released Sunday from the Yokata Air Base. "We are working closely with the Government of Japan to provide assistance and support. To the people of Japan and the region affected by this tragedy we send our heartfelt sympathies. The men and women of U.S. Forces, Japan, stand with you during this difficult time."
The statement added, "The long-standing alliance between Japan and the U.S. allows U.S. military forces in Japan to provide rapid, integrated support to the Japanese Self-Defense Forces and civil relief efforts. Our long experience working hand-in-hand with Japanese Self-Defense Forces ensures that our operations are seamless and effective.
Officials have confirmed 41 deaths from the two earthquakes: 32 from Saturday's quake, and nine from Thursday's quake. About 1,500 people were injured in the quakes, said Yoshihide Suga, the Japanese government's top spokesman.
Thousands of rescue workers resumed search efforts Sunday morning for about 12 missing people in a mountainous area near Mount Aso, which is littered with debris. Landslides from Saturday's earthquake have blocked roads and destroyed bridges, making it difficult to access certain areas.
Japanese media reported that the number of people seeking refuge in shelters following the earthquakes had more than doubled to 183,882 by Sunday. On Saturday, there were around 90,000 people. Many displaced people also slept in their cars or under tarps and other protection overnight.
Also, 80,000 homes in Kumamoto prefecture still didn't have electricity Sunday, and an estimated 400,000 households were without running water.
More than 1,000 buildings were damaged in the two earthquakes, including at least 90 that were destroyed.