The government officially approved the dispatch of a Self-Defense Forces relief operation Friday to hurricane-stricken Honduras and immediately sent six Air Self-Defense Force C-130 transport planes loaded with medical equipment and other goods.

Medical support teams consisting of 80 Ground Self-Defense Force members along with 20 members of the Japan International Cooperation Agency will be dispatched today.

The mission marks the first SDF overseas relief operation under a 1992 law revision allowing the nation’s military to engage in such disaster roles abroad.

At a news conference after a regular Cabinet meeting, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka said the government received a report Thursday from a 16-member advance team sent to the storm-devastated Central American nation Tuesday.

According to the report, the situation in Honduras is worse than expected and Japan should dispatch emergency support teams to provide survivors with medical treatment and epidemic-prevention measures as early as possible, he said.

Nearly 2.2 million people are still suffering from the devastation of Hurricane Mitch, which hit Honduras from Oct. 27 to Nov. 1 and claimed more than 10,000 lives in the Central American region — more than 6,400 in Honduras alone.

The relief operation is to run for two weeks, and the team will set up outdoor hospitals and work to prevent the outbreak of infectious diseases. The SDF organizational support will also help rebuild damaged infrastructure such as roads and airports, Nonaka said.

The ASDF planes will arrive Monday in Honduras.

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