President Obama said Friday that the United States “stands ready to help” the Japanese people after a magnitude 8.9 earthquake triggered a deadly tsunami, which obliterated coastal areas and surged in the opposite direction through Hawaii on its way to the western U.S. coast.
The U.S. military was positioning its resources in the Pacific to be able to respond if the Japanese government formally requests help. Obama also instructed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to be prepared to respond to any regions of the United States that are affected.
“Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the people of Japan, particularly those who have lost loved ones in the earthquake and tsunamis,” Obama said in a written 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.”
The largest earthquake in Japan’s history pummeled the eastern coast of Japan Friday, accompanied by a towering tsunami. At least 50 people were killed.
“The friendship and alliance between our two nations is unshakeable,” Obama said, “and only strengthens our resolve to stand with the people of Japan as they overcome this tragedy.”
Obama had earlier scheduled a White House news conference for late-morning Friday and was expected to discuss the situation in Japan at that time.
The Pentagon said earlier that the U.S. Pacific Command reported all American military personnel in Japan had been accounted for. Press secretary Geoff Morrell said there are no reports of injuries to U.S. personnel there or damage to U.S. installations or ships in the area.
Morrell, who is traveling with Defense Secretary Robert Gates in Brussels, said that Gates was briefed by Pacific Command officials Friday while he was attending a NATO meeting on the Afghanistan war.
The Defense Department later sent out a Tweet saying U.S. forces in the Pacific “are ready to respond and provide disaster relief if requested.”
The State Department sent out a similar message offering assistance.
FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said his agency was “closely monitoring” the situation.
“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,” he said.
Vice President Joe Biden, making a joint appearance in Chisinau, Moldova Friday with Prime Minister Vlad Filat, said “the thoughts and prayers of the American people” are with the Japanese, who he said had suffered through a “mega earthquake.”
“We, the United States, stand ready to do anything we can to help our Japanese friends as they deal with the aftermath of this tragedy,” Biden said.