Amateur Radio operators became involved in the rescue effort soon after the March 11 8.9 earthquake and devastating tsunami that hit northern Japan, and that effort continues nearly two weeks later. “In the early stage following the earthquake and tsunami, several radio amateurs were able to activate their stations with car batteries or small engine generators, despite the electric power outages,” IARU Region 3 Secretary Ken Yamamoto, JA1CJP, told the ARRL. “They transmitted rescue requests and information on the disaster situation -- including refugee centers and their needs -- and the availability of basic infrastructures, such as electricity, water and gas supplies.” After the earthquake and tsunami, there was no electricity, water or gas service in many of the affected areas.
In his report to the ARRL, Yamamoto said that the Japan Amateur Radio League (JARL) quickly activated JA1RL, its headquarters station in Tokyo, to assist in the rescue effort. With the help of many other amateurs, it also activated its regional headquarters station JA3RL in Osaka to communicate with amateurs in the areas devastated by the tsunami, including its Tohoku headquarters station JA7RL in Sendai. “The communications were mostly on the 7 MHz band in daytime and the 3.5 MHz band at night,” Yamamoto explained. “Short range communications were also made on the 144 and 430 MHz bands. The information gathered through Amateur Radio communications was reported to the rescue and disaster relief organizations for their appropriate deployment. Some other amateurs accepted health-and-welfare inquiries from the [impacted] areas and then posted the information on the Internet.”
Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications -- that country’s equivalent of the FCC -- approved the use of an additional 300 UHF/VHF transceivers in the affected areas.
With gasoline and natural gas in short supply, Yamamoto said that the fuel shortage was “a very serious problem in the cold climate. Calls for fuel were received over radio from many disaster areas, but delivery remained very difficult at least for the first week as the access roads were hacked up everywhere. Several days later, some Amateur Radio clubs reached the affected areas with their radio equipment and established communications for supporting disaster relief.”
Yamamoto told the ARRL that several radio equipment manufacturers offered “hundreds of VHF/UHF transceivers to JARL for the use at refugee centers and local disaster relief centers. These transceivers should help to establish mutual communications between refugee and disaster relief centers, and to facilitate smooth and appropriate delivery of disaster relief goods.”
As of noon JST on March 23 (0300 UTC), Japanese authorities announced that 9408 people have been killed and another 14,716 people have been reported missing in the earthquake and tsunami.