OIST Contributes to Kumamoto Earthquake Relief Efforts

Two staff from the OIST clinic went into the earthquake-hit region of Kumamoto Prefecture to provide medical support for evacuees.

Powerful twin earthquakes and aftershocks have recently hit in Kumamoto and Oita Prefectures in Kyushu, killing approximately 50 people and injuring almost 1,000. Dr. Minoru Hara and Akiyo Nomachi from the OIST clinic immediately left for the earthquake-hit Mashiki Town in Kumamoto on April 16 and worked in the area as part of the Japanese Medical Association Team (JMAT) from from April 19 to 22. The team, comprising of doctors and nurses from across the country, are treating the injured and more than 37,000 evacuees at temporary shelters.

“The first few days were very chaotic,” recalls Hara. “But recovery efforts soon restored lifeline and we were able to expand our medical activities day by day.” Hara and Nomachi first arrived at the Reihoku Ishikai Hospital in Amakusa island where Dr. Hara used to work. Due to heavy traffic congestion on their 100km-car ride into and out of Mashiki Town, they soon relocated their “basecamp” from Amakusa to a site closer to Mashiki Health and Welfare Center, from where JMAT each day sent doctors and nurses to various temporary shelters to provide medical treatment for evacuees and to investigate the health and sanitary environment. The medical staff also went around the town to launch mobile clinics at places which had become gathering spots for those affected, including schools and parks.

“Disasters can happen anytime, anywhere. It is important for patients taking medicine on a regular basis to have stocks that last for at least one week,” says Dr. Hara, who treated some Kumamoto residents in dire need of medication. Nomachi adds, “Having bottled water in stock, a flashlight, and knowing where to evacuate to and which phone number to call in times of these disasters is equally important.”

Kumamoto Prefecture has called for volunteers from across the nation to participate in relief efforts. Both Hara and Nomachi Akiyo Nomach took their OIST volunteer leave to help the Kumamoto residents. This leave is set up at OIST to encourage its employees to freely give their time to help others. “Before you go in, make sure you secure your own meals and a place to sleep at night so you won’t end up among the evacuees,” advised Hara.

“One of the nurses in our team was himself a victim of the disaster. He took shelter with his family at night but worked with us during daytime to visit other victims. The doctor who kindly let us stay at his house reopened his clinic only 3 days after the earthquakes. Despite the unstable situation, he welcomed us with great hospitality. A staff member at one temporary shelter cared about us and even shared their food. It will take some time for Kumamoto to recover, but I would like to continue extending my support and wishes for their restoration.”

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