The U.S. State Department on Friday posted a travel alert and an information page about the catastrophic earthquake in Japan on its website for travelers, including details on contacting the department.
In the travel alert, the department said it "strongly urges U.S. citizens to avoid tourism and non-essential travel to Japan at this time." It said that airports and public transportation were closed in the Tokyo area and that many roads in that area and northern Japan had been damaged. It warned that strong aftershocks were likely for weeks.
“U.S. citizens currently in Japan should contact family and friends in the United States to confirm their well-being at the earliest opportunity,” the alert said. If Internet and phone services are not available, the department suggested trying to contact people using cellphone text messaging or social media such as Twitter and Facebook.
U.S. citizens, it said, may contact the department by e-mail at JapanEmergencyUSC@state.gov or by phone to get travel and security updates on Japan. In the U.S. and Canada, you can call toll-free at (888) 407-4747 (choose "7" on the recorded menu for Japan updates); outside these areas, you’ll need to use a regular toll line, (202) 501-4444.
The Japan Earthquake & Pacific Tsunami information page offers more details, plus useful hyperlinks to the department's Twitter feed and Facebook page; the U.S. Embassy and consulates in Japan; the National Weather Service's Pacific Tsunami Warning Center; and recent notices issued by the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. The latter include so-called warden messages, which may be updated more frequently and contain more detail than the main U.S. State Department travel website, making them especially useful in a crisis.