JMA Disaster Headquarters Status Reports

20:30, March 29, 2011

The JMA Disaster Countermeasures Headquarters held its second teleconference with the prefectural medical associations in the Tohoku region and the Ibaraki Medical Association from 16:00 today. During the meeting the presidents of each association gave reports of the status of the disaster on the ground.

(1) Iwate
In Iwate there are 3,242 confirmed dead and 4,654 missing. Of these, one more member has been confirmed dead and five are missing. At present, 43,000 people are living in 380 evacuation shelters, and food is not getting around to some of them. So far, in addition to autopsy teams, 37 JMATs are providing support. The air transport of medical supplies sent by the JMA on March 19 was delivered to areas in 11 locations and was of great help. Those supplies were used to set up four medical supply centers in the coastal area, which will continue to be used as supply centers.

A total of 154 doctors have helped with autopsies and postmortem examinations, which have been completed for 3,087 bodies. However, bodies continue to be found on the sea almost every day, and the search for missing persons continues. Search teams are combing small beaches and between rocks along the deeply indented coastline. In light of the need for sustained medical care, from April forward the Iwate Medical Association will form its own "Iwate JMATs" in addition to the JMATs dispatched by the JMA.

(2) Miyagi
In Miyagi there are 6,455 confirmed dead and 7,050 missing. At present, 66,500 are living in 399 evacuation shelters. In the heavily damaged town of Minami-sanriku the only hospital and six clinics were completely destroyed. In Kesennuma half the city was destroyed; of the 36 clinics in business 30 were swept away. In Ishinomaki, where the death toll was the highest, there is nothing left where half the city once stood. Of the 75 clinics in business, 28 were swept away. Seeing a bus on the roof of a three story building makes it clear that the tsunami was far higher than 10 meters.

Already the deaths of nine members have been confirmed. Influenza is going around in the evacuation shelters, and urgent efforts are being made to arrange for and hand over Tamiflu, Relenza, and simple test kits. Even clinical records were washed away in the widespread damage, and requests have come in for consideration to be given to claims for remuneration for medical services rendered before the earthquake.

(3) Fukushima
In Fukushima there are 996 confirmed dead and a little less than 5,000 missing. The problem at the nuclear power plant is continuing, and prefectural residents are very worried. Announcements by the government and TEPCO have so far been confusing, and with corrections being made to announcements, no fixed viewpoint has emerged. This has led to people becoming very anxious and suspicious. In part because of this, many people have taken refuge outside the prefecture. Evacuees who remain at shelters in Fukushima are living with anxiety about the future.

(4) Ibaraki
Although there were not many casualties in Ibaraki, damage to infrastructure was severe; 50,000 buildings were ruined, of which 232 buildings with a public role were destroyed. Thus far seven JMATs (from the Kyushu block) have provided support, but as of March 31 the prefecture plans to work on recovery by itself. It remarked that it would like JMATs to turn their strength to the other three prefectures in the Tohoku region. It is also preparing capacity to accept in-patients from afflicted prefectures.

(5) Other Prefectures in the Tohoku region
Aomori, Akita, and Yamagata have formed support teams and are now assisting the three seriously damaged prefectures. They also reported cooperating with the acceptance of dialysis patients and in-patients.

As of 10:00 am today 196 JMATs are in action (including those whose dispatch has been settled) and 123 in preparing to be dispatched. According to reports from the afflicted prefectures during the teleconference, at present there are sufficient JMATs on the ground, but sustained support will be needed from April forward. The JMA Disaster Headquarters would like to make slight adjustments and have individual prefectural medical associations provide sustained support to fixed areas.

Newspaper Ads
Beginning on March 30, the morning editions of the Yomiuri, Asahi, Nikkei, Mainichi, Sankei, and Tokyo newspapers will devote a single page to express the JMA's condolences to the disaster areas along with an ad asking for support, although the exact day of publication will differ among the newspapers. Similar 5-column ads will also appear in local newspapers in the Tohoku region. Although it was prepared in a hurry, these newspaper placements are intended to express the JMA's determination to protect the health and lives of people in the disaster areas, working hand-in-hand with all medical professionals in the face of this unprecedented catastrophe.

Scheduled Blackouts
At present, rolling blackouts are being held at the discretion of the power companies. Scheduled blackouts are expected to continue depending on the balance between electricity demand and supply capacity. At present, blackouts are sometimes not implemented in areas where they have been scheduled. However, with the coming of summer, demand for power should increase, and medical institutions will have to think how to respond.

Right now, the Kyushu region has sufficient power, but it cannot be used in the Kanto and Tohoku regions because of the difference in frequency. The JMA has decided to conduct a questionnaire survey of the kinds of problems occurring in areas where power outages are actually being implemented, before the real summer heat comes.

Claims for Remuneration
The JMA has heard that the MHLW will be sending out an office memorandum indicating that medical institutions afflicted by the disaster that cannot bill for covered insurance claims because their medical records were lost will be able to make claims for medical services rendered in March 2011 through approximate calculation based on payments for medical service fees for the three months of November, December, and January.

* Editor's Postscript
An email from an executive director of the Miyagi Medical Association (also a member of the JMA's public relations committee) who visited Miyagi Prefecture with the president of the Miyagi Medical Association reported that 70-80% of the children in Minami-sanriku were swept away and died as they were preparing to leave school in order to evacuate. My tears have not stopped since receiving that email.

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