The government was preparing Wednesday to receive medical help from abroad for the thousands injured by the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit the country’s north.

Although it is illegal for doctors without Japanese medical licenses to practice, the health ministry has sent a notice to local governments in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures saying the minimum necessary medical procedures may be taken by foreign doctors, given the unprecedented catastrophe.

According to a health ministry official, this was only the second time he was aware of that such a notice had been sent out. The last time was in 1995 after the Great Hanshin Earthquake, which claimed the lives of over 6,000 people.

Details were not available but the Foreign Ministry said it was coordinating with several countries, including Canada.

“We have received offers from countries who are looking to assist us in the medical field and Japan would like to actively seek their help,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Satoru Sato.

The doctors who have foreign medical licenses will be able to give treatment only in disaster areas, Sato said, adding that the doctors would likely be focusing on giving first-aid assistance to the injured.

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