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The government dispatched a research squad to hurricane-stricken Honduras on Monday evening in preparation for sending the Self-Defense Forces to the country for relief operations.

The Defense Agency said it is ready to dispatch about 70 to 80 Ground Self-Defense Force members, including at least 13 army surgeons, to the Central American country for a two-week period starting as early as next week.

If realized, it will be the SDF’s first relief operation outside Japan since related laws to allow the SDF to join disaster relief operations overseas were revised in 1992. The final decision on whether to dispatch the SDF to Honduras will be made after the 16-member research team, including 13 Defense Agency officials, returns to Japan later this week, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka said.

Once the decision is made, the Defense Agency will use six C-130 transport aircraft of the Air Self-Defense Force to carry the GSDF members, according to the agency officials.

Hurricane Mitch, which struck Honduras from Oct. 27 through Nov. 1, killed more than 6,500, while over 2 million Hondurans are still suffering from the aftermath.

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