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【Emergency Message】 Regarding the Tohoku Pacific earthquake Message from the President(2)

March 17, 2011

My first message concerning the Tohoku Pacific earthquake was made available on our homepage 2 days ago.
However, the situation is evolving rapidly. As the core disaster area hospital, Iwate Medical University is working closely with the prefectural government, serving as the centre of efforts throughout the prefecture, and I wish to report on the current situation.
I previously noted that the focus is moving away from the provision of emergency medical treatment and towards efforts to prevent a secondary disaster occurring, through both treatment of chronic illnesses within the evacuation centres, and the management of health and sanitation. However, even though relief supplies are arriving, there have been delays in getting them to the evacuation centres, the situation in some isolated evacuation centres so desperate that one rice ball must be shared between four people, and many problems are affecting the delivery of food supplies to each evacuation centre. From the Evacaution Centre Medical Treatment Base set up in Tono (Fukushi no Sato), close to the disaster area but itself relatively unscathed by the earthquake, evacuation centre medical teams from Iwate Medical University are being dispatched to the areas south of Miyako that suffered destruction on a massive scale. Large evacuation centres serving 800~900 people are finding themselves having to deal with over 200 requiring medical attention. At present in Iwate, some 50,000 evacuees are taking refuge in 375 centres. (Figures as of March 16 from the Prefectural Disaster Response Centre.) However, there are many other survivors and evacuation centres the details of which are not yet known.
In addition, Ofunato Prefectural Hospital, the core general hospital in the Kesen area, has seen its surrounding towns of Rikuzen-Takata and Ofunato almost completely destroyed, and medical facilities in the town are no longer able to function. Comparatively undamaged because of its location on higher ground, Ofunato Prefectural Hospital is now the only facility in the area able to offer medical treatment. However, staff with no homes to return to are being forced to stay at the hospital. With food supplies exhausted, they are forced to go on working with severely limited resources. They are also at the limit of exhaustion.
Emergency supplies of food and other resources have arrived at the distribution centres. There is a shortage of medications and medical supplies, but what is required most urgently of all right now is GASOLINE. For sending medical teams to evacuation centres, for sending doctors to maintain medical service provision in coastal hospitals, for transporting staff to keep hospitals functioning, gasoline is needed. For delivering food, medications, and medical supplies to the evacuation centres and the core hospitals in affected coastal areas the problem is the same: There is not enough gasoline.
Given the situation, from the start the authorities have been receiving strong demands for the supply of gasoline and other energy sources. Banri Kaieda, the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, announced on the evening of March 14 that fuel would be supplied from national reserves. Although 3 days have since passed, there is still no sign of fuel supplies reaching the affected areas. How this unjust situation could have been allowed to arise is completely beyond my understanding.
Another extremely important concern is that there is no way to communicate with the evacuation centres and hospitals. The resulting lack of information is hampering the recovery effort by making it difficult to distribute manpower and supplies appropriately. It is my profound hope that telephone and other communication lines will be reestablished without delay.
The disaster area at present is a BATTLEFIELD. A delay of a few hours can become a serious problem that threatens the lives of those in the evacuation centres. The worst case scenario has become reality. This is no longer peacetime. If the cries of those in the affected areas go unheard, if we simply allow time to pass, then we will not be able to safeguard our citizens’ lives.
It is against this background that I asked the Prefectural Governor in the strongest terms to secure the necessary resources. As a result, today, March 17, the Governor asked the government’s Disaster Response Unit to make the necessary resources available, and a swift response from the government is eagerly anticipated.
I ask that the government make even greater efforts to respond with the utmost urgency to the situation.

Akira Ogawa
President, Iwate Medical University