Radio Amateurs in Japan Provide Communications Support after Earthquake
Since last week’s 8.9 earthquake and tsunami, Japan faces widespread destruction, including power, fuel and water shortages. The Japan Amateur Radio League (JARL) HQ station JA1RL, along with other amateurs throughout the island nation, is maintaining the effort to support the disaster relief operation, according to IARU Region 3 Secretary Ken Yamamoto, JA1CJP. “In less damaged areas, the electric power supply is being restored gradually and local amateurs have started to establish stations at shelters,” he said. The quake, whose epicenter was located off the coast of Sendai -- a city of 1 million people -- triggered tsunamis as high as 20 feet.
Yamamoto said that JA1RL continues to operate as an emergency traffic center on 7.030 MHz, as well as 2 meters and 70 cm. It is receiving and reporting news from Japanese amateurs who are in the affected area. Using battery power or small generators, Japanese stations are active and are using various frequencies to exchange rescue and disaster relief operation information with JA1RL and others.
“While 3.525, 7.030, 7.043 and 7.075 MHz have been mentioned as in use, it’s wise to keep those -- and all of the Center of Emergency frequencies -- clear of normal and non-urgent traffic,” said IARU Region 3 Disaster Communications Committee Chairman Jim Linton, VK3PC, who added that there is no call for additional foreign radio amateurs in Japan.
Yamamoto said that information is being coordinated as part of an organized rescue and relief effort and seems likely to continue for weeks and months to come. Quoting local news sources, Yamamoto said that the situation in Japan is getting worse. On March 15, police announced that 2414 people have been killed -- up from 1627 reported just 24 hours earlier -- and 3118 are reported missing. Some 55,380 houses and buildings were damaged by the earthquake and 3000 houses washed away by the tsunami.
Rescue teams -- from Korea, Singapore, New Zealand, China, USA, Germany, Switzerland, Australia and Russia -- have arrived in Japan and have started their activities in the affected areas. In all, Yamamoto said that the Japanese government has received help from 91 nations and territories, as well as nine international organizations.
Yamamoto said that another worry in Japan is leakage of radioactive gasses at the Fukushima nuclear plant, which was damaged by the earthquake and tsunami.