International aid to Japan continues to ramp up

An international aid effort swelled Monday to help Japan deal with the trio of catastrophes that have mired the country in sorrow and fear.

More than 90 nations have offered assistance in searching for survivors and extracting the dead from Friday’s magnitude 8.9 earthquake, the devastating tsunami it spawned and the threat of radiation contamination emanating from three damaged reactors in the hard-hit northeast.

The aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan arrived in Japan to augment a fleet of U.S. naval vessels deployed to help with air rescue operations and to ferry relief supplies to the hundreds of thousands displaced by the disasters. The U.S. government also sent an initial donation of $100,000 through its embassy in Tokyo and dispatched about 150 search-and-rescue workers trained in urban disaster response.

Photos: Scenes of earthquake destruction


Britain sent relief specialists as well, along with heavy lifting equipment to remove the debris of collapsed buildings thought to be covering thousands more corpses of victims of the tsunami that swept huge swaths of homes and public buildings into a deadly torrent.

France and Germany sent rescue teams, including sniffer dogs capable of detecting signs of life under the rubble.

The Turkish Red Crescent agency, Switzerland’s Humanitarian Aid Response Team, Canadian Medical Assistance and Doctors Without Borders deployed doctors and first-aid workers to tend to the injured.

Across the globe, from Afghanistan to Vietnam to Sri Lanka, nations struggling to meet their own national needs sent money to Japan to buy food, water, fuel, clothing and blankets.

The help filtering in on the fourth day of the island nation’s worst disaster since World War II was nonetheless dwarfed by the magnitude of the need. At least 550,000 people who lost their homes filled gymnasiums, public auditoriums, schools and other makeshift shelters. The few grocery stores and gas stations operating turned to rationing to spread their dwindling supplies equitably.

Hardships are expected to last for weeks, even months. The Tokyo Electric Power Co. announced rolling blackouts across the country would be imposed through April, and the Japan Meteorological Agency forecast snow for the afflicted northeast region from Wednesday through the weekend.