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West Japan fire department donates used ambulance to Ukraine

From right, Odai Mayor Masanobu Omori, SunPanSa Chairman Masayoshi Uemura, and Sofiya Kataoka of Kraiany, are seen in front of a used ambulance to be donated to Ukraine, in the town of Odai, Mie Prefecture, on Feb. 2, 2023. (Mainichi/Emi Shimomura)

ODAI, Mie -- A local firefighting association based in this west Japan town has donated a used ambulance to a nonprofit group for use in Ukraine amid the prolonged Russian aggression.

    The Kisei Fire Department on Feb. 2 donated the ambulance to SunPanSa, an incorporated nonprofit organization based in Matsusaka, Mie Prefecture, to help Ukrainians cope with emergency cases and those wounded in the conflict. The nonprofit has been soliciting donations of used ambulances for that purpose.

    "We're surprised at such a swift donation, given that we started publicly soliciting donations on Jan. 19," said Masayoshi Uemura, 80, chairman of SunPanSa, during a ceremony to transfer the vehicle at the Okuise fire station in Odai, Mie Prefecture, on Feb. 2. "We believe this ambulance will save many lives in Ukraine," he added, as he expressed his gratitude.

    Odai Mayor Masanobu Omori said, "We hope this ambulance, which was active for 13 years in the local community, will be of benefit to Ukraine."

    According to the Kisei Fire Department, which is managed by the Odai town hall, the ambulance had been in use between December 2009 and December 2022, covering a total of more than 320,000 kilometers, and was set to be scrapped. Equipment such as stretchers and hooks for holding intravenous drip bags, needed by Ukrainian medical institutions, are still usable. The vehicle's purchase price was some 16.6 million yen, or approximately $130,000, excluding its apparatuses.

    The ambulance will be handed over to Kraiany, a Tokyo-based nonprofit Japan-Ukraine friendship association run by Ukrainians living in Japan, by way of SunPanSa. It will be shipped by sea later this month and will arrive in Ukraine via Germany or Belgium.

    Sofiya Kataoka, 33, of Kraiany, a Kyiv native who has lived in Japan since 1993, commented, "As the vehicle is ready for use, it will be of great help to people in Ukraine."

    (Japanese original by Emi Shimomura, Tsu Bureau)

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