Japan: MSF Teams Reach Hardest Hit Areas, Support Relief Effort

Valérie Batselaere/MSF
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Two MSF teams arrived by helicopter to areas hardest hit by the huge earthquake and resulting tsunamis that battered Japan on Friday.

Two Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams arrived by helicopter in Japan’s Miyagi prefecture earlier today and then traveled on to the city of Sendai, one of the areas hardest hit by the 8.9 magnitude earthquake and the resulting tsunamis that battered northeast Japan on Friday afternoon.

The teams are comprised of medical and logistical staff and include Dr. Nobuko Kurosaki, MSF-Japan President and a pediatric surgeon. Three more helicopter flights are scheduled to bring additional MSF teams to the area early Sunday morning.

All MSF staff will work in coordination with the Japanese Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT) and will assess the needs to see if the situation requires larger intervention by MSF. The MSF team is currently working in an evacuation center in Sendai, where people displaced by flooding and damage are receiving medical consultations.

The damage is stark, but MSF personnel report that it appears that medical needs are being met. “In some places, we saw that houses and buildings had been completely destroyed,” said Mikiko Dotsu, the coordinator of the MSF assessment team. “Local people said the water from the tsunami had gone down from yesterday, but there was still a lot of flooding.”

“The authorities said that there are 90 DMATs already working in Miyage prefecture,” Dotsu added. “They seem to have enough people. There is a hospital referral system already set up and the hospitals are managing.”

Although the medical situation in Sendai appears to be under control, the population has needs, Dotsu said. “At the moment, there is very little electricity and no water supply. People need food, blankets, and water. These needs are bigger than medical needs at the moment,” said the assessment coordinator.

The team will soon be joined by additional MSF personnel and will continue their assessments of the situation.