FUKUSHIMA Lives on the Line

235chap.IVPatient Relief Activity Records [Essays and Research Publications]FUKUSHIMA: Lives on the LineK. Ishikawa: Department of Cardiology, Center for Medical Education and Career Development, Fukushima Medical University Fukushima Medical University HospitalIntroductionThe 9.0-magnitude Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011 was the fourth strongest quake in history, and surpassed in scale anything our country has ever experienced. In addition to the devastation in Fukushima, the earthquake and tsunami caused economic loss in and placed psychological pressure on the prefecture. These setbacks emanated from the fear and avoidance of radiation exposure due to Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident, bringing to the fore aspects of an unprecedented disaster. Effects of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in FukushimaAccording to the prefecture’s disaster response headquarters, as of June 3, 2011, there have been 1,576 fatalities, 404 missing cases, 84 serious injuries, and 152 Reports from Disaster-Affected AreasEffects of the Nuclear Accident on the Community: Unique Aspects of the Fukushima DisasterKazunobu IshikawaNotes from the 53rd Annual Meeting of the Japan Geriatrics SocietyPanel Discussion 4: Geriatric Medical Care in Times of Disaster—How to Protect the Elderly in Evacuation CentersJournal of the Japan Geriatrics Society Vol. 48 No. 5SummaryThe Fukushima disaster is unique in its characteristics and repercussions. In addition to the earthquake and tsunami causing catastrophic damage to the municipalities of Hamadori, many people were ordered to evacuate their homes and abandon their livelihoods due to widespread radiation contamination; the extent and dangers of contamination were still unclear at the time. Moreover, with domestic and foreign people steering clear of the disaster areas, given their fear of radiation, Fukushima suffered economic loss and psychological pressure.Local government agencies and medical facilities strived to address this unprecedented event, which suddenly occurred during the light snow of early spring. During the early stages, we faced the harsh truth that our work depended on the provision of water, electricity, gasoline, communication, and the transportation systems. DMATs and radiation exposure medical teams collaborated with local medical teams. While those involved in the restoration efforts at the nuclear power plant were facing more serious issues, we visited the 25,000 people living in evacuation centers within the prefecture and provided aid to patients within 20–30 kilometers of the nuclear power plant, who had been ordered to stay indoors.I believe everybody gained experience of aspects outside of their professional expertise through these unexpected events. In addition, people have learned that organically grown organizations and personal relationships can help us respond to these types of changes, and that easy-to-understand explanations help bring about peace of mind. There are many similarities between medical care and safety management, which is the bedrock of nuclear power operations. We have suddenly been forced to reflect on our professional mission at a personal and organizational level. Sincerely analyzing our actions is our most significant responsibility toward those in the disaster areas, who now live under the burden of long-term radiation contamination.Key Words: Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, Fukushima, nuclear accident, large-scale evacuation, professionalism