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Open Badges Commentary

The earthquake and tsunami - observations by Japanese physicians since the 11 March catastrophe

Soichiro Nagamatsu1*, Tsuyoshi Maekawa2, Yoshihito Ujike3, Satoru Hashimoto4, Nobuo Fuke5 and The Japanese Society of Intensive Care Medicine

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Pulmonary Allergy, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Minnesota, 420 Delaware Street, South East, MMC 276, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA

2 Japanese Society of Intensive Care Medicine, Hive Hongo 3F 3-32-6 Hongo, Bunkyou-ku, Tokyo, 113-0033, Japan

3 Emergency and Critical Care Medicine, Okayama University, 2-5-1 Shikata-cho, Kita-ku, Okayama-shi, Okayama, 700-8558, Japan

4 Department of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care, Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine, Kawaramachi Hirokoji, Kamigyo, Kyoto, 602-8566, Japan

5 Emergency and Intensive Care Center, Teikyo University Chiba Medical Center, 3426-3 Anesaki, Ichihara-shi, Chiba, 299-0001, Japan

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Critical Care 2011, 15:167  doi:10.1186/cc10261

Published: 28 June 2011


Japan was struck by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and a tsunami on 11 March 2011. Although this catastrophe has caused the most devastating damage to Japan since World War II, we believe that our systematic preparation for disasters somewhat alleviated the damage. Learning lessons from the magnitude 7.3 Great Hanshin earthquake in 1995, the government organized approximately 700 medical teams specialized in disaster management. In this earthquake of 2011, hundreds of medical teams were successfully deployed and started operations within the first 72 hours. Furthermore, the internet, which was not commonly used in 1995, made significant contributions in communication among clinicians and enabled them to promptly identify the needs of the affected hospitals. In addition, medical professional societies took leadership in the logistics of transferring victims away from the disaster zone. We also observed that the spectrum of causes of death is distinct between the earthquakes of 1995 and 2011. In 1995, many victims died from trauma, including crash injury, and delays in providing hemodialysis contributed to additional deaths. In 2011, in contrast, many victims died from drowning in the tsunami, and most survivors did not have life-threatening injuries.