A Wits professor is on the rescue team from South Africa in Japan following the destruction caused by an 8.9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami.

Professor Efraim Kramer, the head of the emergency medicine division, has a new role to fulfil -the role of medical director in the disaster response team from Rescue SA.

The rescue team consists of about 40 people who were flown to Japan on March 14 and have been in Sendai tending to the survivors’ needs. The team consists of medical doctors, logistic experts and emergency services members.

Kramer and the rest of the team are situated in a base camp in Sendai. He said: “We are undertaking a search and rescue/recovery in the devastated area of the tsunami.”

Reports of the destruction have been flowing in via news websites, social networks and visual media.

“The destruction is far worse than what you see on TV. The energy is worse than that of a nuclear bomb. It is a picture similar to Hiroshima,” Kramer said.

The South African rescue team is battling the cold and debris and Kramer is there to make sure his team does not suffer any illnesses. The team should return by March 28 if their mission is successful.

The earthquake was the largest to hit Japan and is recorded as the seventh strongest in history. The official death toll is 9 300, with about 13 800 people still missing according to the National Police Agency in Japan.

The earthquake and tsunami left Japan in a scene of destruction with roads and houses washed away, universities damaged and very little shelter available.

Japan lies between four tectonic plates: the Eurasian, North American, Philippine and Pacific plates. The earthquake started when the Pacific plate slid beneath the North American plate, sending the tsunami in the direction of Sendai.