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The State of Wajima City Following the 2024 Noto Peninsula Earthquake. ~Department of Radiation Health Management, Fukushima Medical University~

Toshiki Abe,

Physical Therapist, Department of Radiation Health Management, 

Fukushima Medical University School of Medicine

I am writing to share my experience of the ongoing disaster relief efforts following the devastating earthquake that struck the Noto Peninsula on January 1, 2024. As a researcher and physical therapist at Fukushima Medical University, my work primarily revolves around studying the secondary health effects of evacuations post the Great East Japan Earthquake and conducting health seminars for residents in designated evacuation zones. My involvement in disaster-related work stems from my personal experience with the 2011 earthquake, having been an evacuee myself from Soma City, Fukushima Prefecture, an area significantly affected by the disaster. This experience ignited a desire in me to dedicate my career to serving those affected by such calamities.

On January 9th, I joined a team of three, including a nurse and an administrative staff member, to provide support in Wajima City, Noto Peninsula. This mission was initiated in response to a request from Dr. Hiroyuki Beniya of Orange Home Care Clinic, facilitated by our Professor Tsubokura. Our team, accompanied by four members from Locomedical Eguchi Hospital in Saga Prefecture, comprised of medical professionals inexperienced in disaster relief but united by a common goal to make a meaningful difference, however small.

Our destination was "Umi to Sora," a group home in Wajima City, which had been converted into a welfare evacuation center. Such centers cater primarily to vulnerable populations, including the elderly, disabled, and infants, providing them with a safe haven in times of crisis. Upon our arrival, we found the facility overwhelmed with evacuees, ranging from infants to centenarians, most in dire need of daily living assistance.

Despite the challenging conditions, including a lack of running water and limited privacy for evacuees, our team, along with other supporting organizations, worked tirelessly to manage the center. We were engaged not only in providing physical therapy but also in addressing the immediate needs of evacuees, from meal and toiletry assistance to infection prevention measures amidst the pandemic.

The experience was a profound reminder of the complexity and urgency of disaster relief work. It highlighted the critical need for multidisciplinary collaboration and the immense value of community and human connections in the face of adversity. The dedication of staff members, volunteers, and the local community, who have been supporting the evacuees from day one, deserves our deepest respect and gratitude.

This article is a translation of Japanese MRIC published on Jan 23, 2024


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