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Critically ill patients wait as WWII bomb defused

Date Posted: 2011-09-16

It was a tense couple of hours at Samaritan Hospital in Haebaru as critically ill patients, staff and doctors held their collective breathes while a team of explosive ordnance disposal experts dealt with a 125 kilogram bomb left over from the World War II Battle of Okinawa.

Discovery of the American-manufactured bomb quickly sent government and hospital emergency teams into action, beginning an evacuation of some 900 patients and family members from the hospital in Haebaru Town’s Arakawa district the morning of September 4th. Explosive Ordnance Disposal specialists from the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force moved in and began preparing for their own surgical procedure.

Beginning about 9 a.m., 600 people from the Samaritan Hospital and adjacent senior health facilities were evacuated from the grounds and moved elsewhere in Haebaru. Patients able to move on their own were transported by family vehicles and busses organized by the hospital. Another 40 people, including senior citizens in wheelchairs, were moved to a safe location in Haebaru.

That left 285 patients too critically ill to move, along with their doctors, remaining in the hospital as hospital officials covered over glass doors and windows of the hospital with tatami mats as a safety precaution. The Ground Self Defense Force began its surgical separation of the fuse from the bomb at 10:18 a.m., completing the task 17 minutes later, after rendering the bomb safe.

Haebaru Town officials noted there are no official regulations or guidelines for evacuating hospitals in such situations, complaining to Okinawa Prefecture that the situation could pose problems for people unable to move because of physical conditions. They’re demanding Okinawa Prefecture take corrective actions to prevent such situations in the future.

The Okinawa Combination Secretariat immediately instituted and organized a liaison conference of related organizations to study how to improve the emergency response system.

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