TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines—Japanese medics working to help victims of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan) have deployed wireless mobile X-ray kits using tablet computers, a world first in a disaster zone, a team spokesman said Saturday.
The technology, which was developed after the huge tsunami that hit Japan in 2011, allows doctors to take a look inside patients instantly, and even lets them enlarge the image with familiar iPad gestures.
Joji Tomioka, coordinator of the Japan Medical Team for Disaster Relief, said the system had been created in response to what doctors needed in the aftermath of the Japanese disaster.
“This is the first time that we are deploying it in a disaster situation,” Tomioka told Agence France-Presse at a modern tent medical clinic put up by the Japanese government to help victims of the typhoon, which crashed through the central Philippines on November 8.
At the partly air-conditioned clinic in the ruined city of Tacloban on Leyte island, a radiologist placed a camera on the chest of 72-year-old Carlos Llosa as he sat in his wheelchair.
The X-ray image was instantaneously transmitted through a wireless router to an iPad and to a nearby laptop.
With a thumb and a finger, the doctor was able to zoom in for a more detailed view of the problem area.
“It looks like he has tuberculosis,” Tomioka said after looking at the image as the patient was wheeled out.
Japan’s 26-strong medical team includes doctors, nurses, pharmacists, cardiologists and medical technicians. The outfit is able to provide medicine and carry out minor surgery.
Tomioka said Japanese medical experts are seeing about 200 patients a day as part of a large international aid effort to reach the estimated 13 million people affected by one of the most powerful storms ever recorded.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council in the Philippines says 3,633 people are now reported to have died when the ferocious storm hit.
The United Nations said Saturday that 2.5 million people still “urgently” need food.
“The Philippines helped us during our hour of need in the tsunami,” Tomioka said, referring to the global outpouring of sympathy in the aftermath of a catastrophe that cost 18,000 lives.
“Now it’s our turn to give back.”
Japan said Friday it was tripling its emergency aid package for the Philippines to more than $30 million, and was sending up to 1,000 troops to help with relief efforts.
It is expected to be the first time that Japanese troops are active in Leyte since the island turned into one of the biggest battlegrounds of World War II, when US forces counter-invaded in 1944.
Tacloban was the first Philippine city to be liberated from Japan’s occupying forces.