MARINE CORPS AIR STATION FUTENMA, OKINAWA, Japan --
Mayor Atsushi Sakima of Ginowan City and Col. James G. Flynn, commanding officer of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, signed a bilateral agreement June 26 at MCAS Futenma specifying procedures for the evacuation of Okinawa residents in the event a natural disaster and provisions for evacuation drills to maintain readiness.
This agreement comes after thorough collaboration between Ginowan City and MCAS Futenma and signifies the importance that the city and air station place on mutual safety and cooperation.
“The March 2011 earthquake in northern Japan triggered a powerful tsunami that devastated the area and resulted in the loss of a large number of people’s lives and property in a matter of minutes and seconds,” said Sakima. “This traumatic event emphasized the importance of having an effective evacuation plan for the citizens of Okinawa, who are completely surrounded by a body of water.”
Immediately before, during or following a natural disaster, especially a tsunami, MCAS Futenma can use the procedures to open one or more of the station’s gates to allow evacuees immediate and direct passage to higher ground or shelter. Also, the air station would post signs directing evacuees along designated routes between the gates.
The signing of the agreement is an important step in protecting the communities during times of need, according to Sakima.
“This implementation does not only help save lives of Okinawans, but of tourists and visitors from all over the world who happen to be in the area at the time of disaster,” said Sakima.
The signed procedures supplement the Local Implementation Agreement that officially allowed residents and visitors to Okinawa access to Marine Corps installations in the event of a disaster, signed in November 2012 by Sakima, Mayor Masaharu Noguni of Chatan Town and retired Maj. Gen. Peter J. Talleri, former commanding general of Marine Corps Installations Pacific and Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler. It also supplements an agreement set in August 2012 providing limited humanitarian access to MCAS Futenma for Ginowan City emergency vehicles.
The document prepares the air station and the community for effective response to a disaster.
“The joint signing of this document recognizes the importance our communities place on preparing for a natural disaster that may jeopardize the safety of our citizens,” said Flynn. “I am confident that in working together we will undoubtedly protect the lives of countless men, women, children, old and young, faced by a tsunami or other catastrophe. Ideally, we should hope that we will never have to execute this plan, but if the circumstances arise requiring us to do so, I know that we are prepared.”
Ginowan City and MCAS Futenma plan to continue collaborating on mutually beneficial agreements.
“I firmly believe that the culmination of this agreement was the result of open and continuous communications between our two organizations,” said Flynn. “We have worked together to find solutions that are advantageous to each other. It is my wish that we continue to find opportunities where we can work together on important issues affecting our citizens. It is my hope that we can continue to build on our friendship, and I look forward to working on future endeavors.”