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International aid workers arrive to assist in Japan earthquake rescue efforts

Emergency responders have streamed into Japan to aid rescue efforts after the historic magnitude 8.9 earthquake and associated tsunami.

Two teams from Doctors Without Borders arrived by helicopter in Japan's Miyagi prefecture Saturday and traveled to the hard-hit northern city of Sendai.

The teams include medical and logistical staff such as Dr. Nobuko Kurosaki, a pediatric surgeon and president of the group's Japan division. They have been working in coordination with a Japanese Disaster Medical Assistance Team in an evacuation center in Sendai, where those displaced by flooding and quake damage have been receiving medical care.

Doctors Without Borders has scheduled three additional helicopter flights to send emergency responders to Japan on Sunday.

The group released a statement Saturday praising Japan's response, noting victims' medical needs appeared to be met, but that they were likely to need ongoing care due to the scale of the disaster.

Mikiko Dotsu, coordinator of the group's assessment team, said Japanese officials reported 90 of their disaster teams were at work in Miyage prefecture alone.

"They seem to have enough people," Dotsu said. "There is a hospital referral system already set up and the hospitals are managing."

However, she noted that "in some places, we saw that houses and buildings had been completely destroyed. Local people said the water from the tsunami had gone down from yesterday, but there was still a lot of flooding."

"At the moment, there is very little electricity and no water supply," she said. "People need food, blankets and water. These needs are bigger than medical needs at the moment."

Santa Monica-based International Medical Corps has also sent an emergency response team to Japan to aid recovery efforts.

"We are putting together relief teams, as well as supplies, and are in contact with partners in Japan and other affected countries to assess needs and coordinate our activities," said Nancy Aossey, the group's president, in a statement released Saturday. "While Japan has a large capacity to manage a disaster of this scale, we will respond as needed."

molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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