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Dr Russell - Japan Earthquake - 14th March 2011

Up at 0430hrs after about 3 hours sleep but felt quite refreshed.  Had breakfast in the mess hall and then packed up and off to the hanger where we arrived last night.  The plan was to move South to Ofinato on the coast where, we're told, a town of 40 000 has had significant damage and where there are several hundred missing.

We were due to set off in coach convoy at 0830hrs, but is was nearly midday by the time we left.  Lots of rumour and counter-rumour and stories about further tsunami warnings but we were glad to get finally moving.

Lots of kit to sort out.

We are deploying with the US teams that have flown in making a rescue force of around 200 I think.  All personnel, numerous dogs and all the kit made for a long and fairly slow convoy.  The medical team were cramped into a bus where we didn't have room to stand up.  The 8 hour journey was long and fairly unpleasant, with everyone trying to sleep where they could.

The scenery started with fairly flat open countryside and paddy fields, interspersed by light industrial buildings and houses.  We gradually moved up and through the mountains.  Snow was apparent even in Misawa, something we hadn't really expected - wishing I'd packed a warmer jacket.

There was minimal traffic on the roads - limited to military and emergency vehicles I think - and there seemed to be an unnatural sense of calm outside.  I'm sure that will change once we get to the coast.

Finally we arrived at the Base of Operations, the 'BOO' - a school with very large gym about 20km from Ofinato.   Nice to know we're about 400ft above sea level here.  Unpacked personal kit and had a briefing. It looks like we'll be here until about Friday.  Apparently the local rescue teams are working daylight hours only so we're going to get ready for a 6am start tomorrow, with the whole team deploying to two areas of the coast.

Also spoke to the New Zealand team: all I could gather is that their advance party is in Tokyo looking at a 12 hour drive North to their area of operations.  Think they'll be teamed with the Australians.

Ominously, initial reports are of no survivors found in the last day or so, but at least we're here.