Japan is often the first country called in the event of a natural disaster because of its ability to provide expertise and on the-ground assistance.
When a large-scale natural disaster strikes overseas, Japan’s wealth of knowledge and experience in disaster response becomes a valuable asset in terms of providing emergency assistance. Responding to a request from Mexico after a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck in September 2017, the Japan Disaster Relief (JDR) Search and Rescue Team was swiftly deployed in order to lend a helping hand.
The highly trained team includes the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other relevant governmental agencies, and is equipped to work autonomously upon its arrival on site. In this instance, working through the night with local authorities in Mexico City, the team conducted joint rescue operations during what is considered the critical 72 hours after the earthquake. “For the first time our team was required to work simultaneously at two separate collapsed buildings using heavy equipment, which allowed us to demonstrate Japan’s capabilities,” says platoon leader Naohito Kamiryo.
In addition to providing technical expertise, the team also left a lasting impression on residents in the city. “We start by placing importance on empathy,” says Toshihide Kawasaki, who was designated as the disaster-relief team leader for the Mexico deployment. “It’s not only about lending a hand – it’s also about connecting with the victims and comforting them during a time of sadness, pain and anxiety.”
The JDR Search and Rescue Team’s expertise is reflected by its top-level classification (known as “heavy”) under the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group guidelines. This rating is granted when a team can engage in non-stop relief work at two separate locations for 10 consecutive days, as well as being able to liaise between local government and international rescue teams.