Specific Activities of the SDF

Rescue and Search Operations

Rescue operations by helicopter
Rescue operations by helicopter
Search operations by boat
Search operations by boat

The Great East Japan Earthquake led to a gigantic tsunami that swept over a vast area, resulting in many isolated settlements and missing persons centered around the coastal area. As such, with lifesaving operations as their number one priority, the SDF dedicated their efforts to the search and rescue of those affected.

Rescue Operations

With the survival rate of those affected decreasing as time passes, the SDF rescued many people from houses that collapsed from the earthquake or drifted away with the tsunami. They utilized helicopters to conduct rescue operations in isolated settlements, while utilizing vessels in the coastal area.

Of the roughly 27,000 people who were rescued in total, approximately 70% or about 19,000 people were rescued by the SDF.

Search Operations

As time elapsed from the date of the earthquake, the SDF shifted priority from rescue to the search for missing persons and continued their operations.

Search operations were carried out using boats in areas flooded by the tsunami and land subsidence as well as in coastal waters. In the extreme cold, the SDF searched for missing persons even in waist-deep waters.

The SDF found and recovered approximately 60% (approx. 9,500 bodies) of the total bodies (approx. 16,000 bodies).

Transport of Supplies and Personnel

A female SDF personnel listening to the requests of disaster victims
A female SDF personnel listening to the requests of disaster victims

Supplies were collected at SDF camps and other locations across Japan. Relief supplies, including drinking water, food, and daily necessities, were transported to evacuation centers in the affected areas.

SDF personnel also engaged in transport operations that heeded to the detailed needs of the areas. For example, SDF personnel directly allocated and delivered the supplies to the elderly and to evacuation centers in areas where the roads were too narrow for transport vehicles to enter.

Furthermore, primarily in isolated areas, the SDF conducted transport operations for medical purposes, including the dispatch of medical officers using rescue helicopters, the airlifting of medical supplies, and the transport of patients.

Assessment of Local Needs

Amid the prolonged stay of those affected in evacuation centers and elsewhere, where even privacy is hard to be secured, the SDF conducted needs assessment to allow for the provision of supplies tailored to the needs of the affected people.

Pilots and crew asked about the supplies in shortage, which were then provided in the next round of delivery. In addition, female SDF personnel from the helicopter units provided support that was tailored to the specific requests of women.

Livelihood Support

Bathing Facilities
Bathing Facilities

In response to the wide-ranging needs of the affected people living in challenging environments, livelihood support was provided in the disaster area to enable people to lead as healthy lifestyles as possible. At most, about 200 water supply locations, about 100 food supply facilities, and about 35 outdoor bathing facilities were set up.

Bathing Facilities

Bathing facilities using the GSDF’s outdoor bathing sets were installed. In addition, the bathing facilities at Matsushima Air Base, Hachinohe Air Base, and other locations, as well as the bathrooms in destroyers and transport vessels, were opened up to those affected. Shower sets were also made available with the support of the U.S. Forces.

The bathtubs were equipped with step ladders for people needing assistance. Furthermore, places to mingle with others after taking bath were also created within the facility with baby beds and drink service. This was enjoyed by the people, who had been unable to bathe for days.

Debris Removal and Road Clearance

The SDF removed debris and allowed vehicles to travel the roads to ensure the smooth transport of supplies to the disaster area, while searching for missing persons in collapsed houses and other places. (Length of cleared roads: Approx. 322km)

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