At the request of Japan, the European Commission activated the European Civil Protection Mechanism to provide assistance in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck the country on 11 March. Japan has requested search and rescue teams and search dogs for ongoing operations.
“Japan is one of the best-prepared countries in the world to cope with disasters, but the sheer magnitude of this earthquake and the tsunami means that international assistance is needed. We are responding to the call as urgently as possible,” said Kristalina Georgieva, Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian aid and Crisis Response.
“Europe’s civil protection system has been fully mobilised to help Japan overcome this immense tragedy,” the Commissioner added.
The European Commission’s humanitarian and civil protection department (ECHO) is continuously monitoring the situation in Japan and the other countries where tsunamis could hit.
The European Civil Protection Mechanism facilitates cooperation in disaster response. 31 states participate in the Mechanism (EU-27 plus Croatia, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway). They pool resources that can be made available through the Mechanism to disaster-stricken countries all over the world.
According to the needs, Participating States can mobilise various types of civil protection assistance (search and rescue teams, advanced medical posts, field hospitals and medical teams, engineers and technical support teams, etc.). Two teams of European civil protection experts, currently in Indonesia, stand ready for deployment to the affected area if needed.
When the Mechanism is activated, the European Commission ensures the coordination of assistance interventions inside and outside the European Union. Since its creation in 2001, the Mechanism has been activated for over a hundred disasters in Member States (in 2010 this included floods in Central Europe, the industrial mud spill in Hungary and forest fires in Portugal), as well as worldwide, including in last year’s earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, the floods in Pakistan, the forest fires in Russia and Israel. Most recently, the European civil protection system was mobilised to assist in the evacuation effort of European citizens from Libya.