The U.S. military could be deployed to Ishikawa Prefecture’s earthquake-hit Noto Peninsula to help with relief operations, a senior Japanese official said Tuesday, as snow and freezing temperatures continued to bog down the aid effort.
Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshi Moriya signaled at a news conference that arrangements for the deployment were in the final stages and that the U.S. military could “quickly” help provide supplies to isolated disaster victims while also airlifting vulnerable residents.
U.S. forces could be sent to the area, which was rocked by a magnitude 7.6 quake on New Year’s Day, as early as Tuesday, depending on weather conditions, FNN reported, citing Japanese government sources.
The quake — which has wreaked havoc with roads and infrastructure, especially in difficult-to-reach areas of the peninsula — killed 222 people, with 26 still listed as missing as of Tuesday morning.
The Defense Ministry has dispatched 7,000 Self-Defense Force troops to the area, with many focused on helping deliver aid to residents who have been isolated due to damaged roads. Small groups of SDF troops and helicopter missions have delivered aid to these residents, but the effort has faced obstacles such as inclement weather and limited aircraft.
“The Japanese government has been making its utmost efforts to save lives and provide support, and we will consider offers of assistance from other countries and regions, including the U.S. … taking into consideration the local situations and needs,” Moriya said.
The U.S. military conducted relief operations in the wake of the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake under Operation Tomodachi.