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Private Companies on Standby to Aid in Evacuations From Japan

Evacuees Kazuko Hiraushi (r) and her husband Yoshidaka, who lost their house in the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan a week earlier, cry after observing a minute's silence in memory of the victims, at an evacuation center near a devastated

Private security companies that specialize in civilian rescue operations say that despite the horrific scenes coming out of Japan, the country is probably better prepared for disaster than almost any other nation in the world.

Thousands of foreign nationals are trying to get out Japan and away from its rising chaos and nuclear threat. And help is available - from private companies with experience in such situations.

Daniel Richards, CEO of Global Rescue, based in Boston, Massachusetts, said, "We obviously do know that the country, Japan, for a long time has suffered from earthquake and tsunami threats and that these events do sometimes occur. So, as a company that has clients who rely on us for these types of crisis response services in this region, we have been preparing for these kinds of events in this region due to the frequency with which they occur."

Global Rescue has been involved in a number of large scale evacuations, most recently in Libya. The company currently has three clients in Japan, but unless the radiation threat from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant gets considerably worse, Richards feels Japan is well prepared.

"The Japanese government was probably more prepared for this type of event than any other government in virtually any country in the world" said Richards.

But even Japan is having difficulty coping in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that swept its northeastern regions a week ago. Food and fuel are in short supply. And there are growing fears of radioactive fallout from the overheating nuclear reactors.

Northcott Global Solutions in Britain also is monitoring the situation. It specializes in evacuations from remote or challenging areas, and employs former British soldiers to carry out operations.

Northcott CEO Ted Jones has advised the British government on evacuations and crisis management in Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, and now, Japan. Jones said he has spoken to British officials about land, sea and air evacuation options, but so far Northcott is not involved on the ground in Japan.

"The infrastructure of the country, within Japan, as hideous as that situation is, is still up and running," said Jones. "You can, for instance, still fly out of Tokyo and various other airports there."

So for now, these companies remain on standby, waiting to see if the Japanese government can bring the nuclear problem under control while keeping roads and airports open.

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    Sharon Behn

    Sharon Behn is a foreign correspondent working out of Voice of America’s headquarters in Washington D.C  Her current beat focuses on political, security and humanitarian developments in Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Follow Sharon on Twitter and on Facebook.