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Obama Offers Aid, Condolences to Japan

An earthquake-triggered tsunami washes away a warehouse and vehicles in Kesennuma, Miyagi prefecture (state), Mar 11 2011

U.S. President Barack Obama says Americans are sending their thoughts and prayers to the Japanese people after Friday’s catastrophic earthquake and tsunami. The president says the United States is ready to help.

At a White House news conference, President Obama said he told Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan earlier Friday (1515 UTC) the U.S. will help Japan in any way possible.

“On behalf of the American people, I conveyed our deepest condolences, especially to the victims and their families, and I offered our Japanese friends whatever assistance is needed,” the president said.

Mr. Obama said one U.S. aircraft carrier is in Japan, another is on its way, and a ship is heading to the Mariana Islands in the Pacific Ocean to prepare to take assistance to Japan.

The president also said efforts are being made to account for all U.S. citizens in Japan, after the 8.9 magnitude earthquake and the tsunami and aftershocks that followed.

Mr. Obama said he assured Prime Minister Kan that U.S. officials will help to ensure the safety of Japan’s nuclear power plants.

“I have asked Steve Chu, our energy secretary, to be in close contact with their personnel, to provide any assistance that is necessary, but also to make sure that if, in fact, there have been breaches in the safety system on these nuclear plants, that they are dealt with right away,” President Obama said.

On a personal level, the president said a disaster of this scale is a reminder of how fragile life can be.

“I am heartbroken by this tragedy," said the president. "I think when you see what is happening in Japan, you are reminded that, for all our differences in culture or language or religion, that ultimately, humanity is one.”

Tsunami waves hit the U.S. states of Hawaii and Alaska, as well as American territories in the Pacific. Waves also caused lesser damage in the West Coast states of California and Oregon. Mr. Obama said his administration is taking the situation very seriously and monitoring it very closely.