On March 11, 2011 a devastating 9.0 earthquake shook the Japanese mainland. The earthquake caused severe damage to eastern Japan’s transportation system, power supply and buildings. But the ensuing tsunami waves caused the majority of the damage and loss of life. These waves, some as high as 40 feet, tore into the eastern coast and its bays for hundreds of miles north and south of the epicenter. A day later, the looming nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant added a new dimension and focus to the natural disaster.
Within hours of the tragedy, NGA organized a focus cell to deal with the crisis and quickly began receiving urgent requests for geospatial intelligence products from all levels of government. NGA used the full breadth of its analytical and technical capabilities, quickly assessing damage to the Fukushima nuclear reactors, roads, bridges, rail lines, power generation, dams, ports/harbors and airports/airfields. These assessments to provide the framework for the U.S. government’s response, titled Operation Tomodachi – translated as “Operation Friendship.”