The 74 members of Virginia Task Force 1 had been working around the fishing port of Ofunato, searching for victims of the deadly wave that destroyed seaside buildings and left hundreds missing.
Ofunato is approximately 100 miles north of Sendai, the epicenter of the earthquake that has critically damaged the nuclear reactors there.
Chief Joe Knerrspoke with Fairfax County Chairwoman Sharon Bulova by phone about the team's mission earlier this week.
The Virginia unit had been based in an elementary school in the city, working under the command of Japanese fire fighters. Knerr said on the call that the damage they saw in Japan was worse than what the team had seen on its last deployment, in Haiti. The tsunamai, "wipes everything out, and then takes it out to sea," Knerr said.
The team leader reported that temperatures were in the 20's and that several inches of snow had accumulated while there. The team had experienced aftershocks while on the ground but no injuries had resulted.
A rescue team sent from the U.K. operating in the same area was also withdrawing from the country. The U.K. team had not found any survivors.
The Virginia Urban Search and Rescue team has been deployed to disaster zones around the world for the past 30 years.