Typhoon Haiyan-hit Philippines is the toughest mission to date for an experienced Japanese disaster paramedic, topping his other missions in countries such as Pakistan and Indonesia. 52-year old Joji Tomikoka, vice leader of the Japan International Cooperation Agency’s emergency team had to travel via air, sea and land for four days just to get to the city of Tacloban, the hardest-hit town in Leyte.
Arriving in Tacloban, everything spelled peril for the mission, with no cellphone reception on the way and guerilla fighters reportedly attacking the police on several occasions. The working environment wasn’t conducive for the medical mission as well, with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius and lack of food, clean water and electricity forcing them to rely on rice and cup noodles for sustenance. A storm hit their tent one night and the team had to remove flood water to accommodate numerous patients the following day. From the week of November 15, he already attended to 982 patients and what kept him going was his desire to “pay back (the) generosity Japan received after the Great East Japan Earthquake.”
Helping the locals was not the only thing he endeavored to do and after his schedule with patients, Tomioka plays with the children in the area. He remembered being a 6-year old survivor of the 1968 Ebino earthquake that hit his hometown Miyazaki which forced him to live in a car and a tent for a month. Some Self-Defense Forces member sent to assist the victims played with him at the time. “The children of the Philippines will surely not forget that Japanese doctors came to help them. Perhaps, in the future, they will become members of the Philippines‘ emergency aid teams,” he says.
[ via Mainichi ]