The Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2001 left around 20,000 dead or missing. Previous studies showed that rescue workers, as well as survivors, of disasters are at high risk for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This study examined the predictive usefulness of the Peritraumatic Distress Inventory (PDI) among rescue workers of Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMATs) deployed during the acute disaster phase of the Great East Japan Earthquake. In this prospective observational study, the DMAT members recruited were assessed 1 month after the earthquake on the PDI and 4 months after the earthquake on the Impact of Event Scale-Revised to determine PTSD symptoms. The predictive value of the PDI at initial assessment for PTSD symptoms at the follow-up assessment was examined by univariate and multiple linear regression analysis. Of the 254 rescue workers who participated in the initial assessment, 173 completed the follow-up assessment. Univariate regression analysis revealed that PDI total score and most individual item scores predicted PTSD symptoms. In particular, high predictive values were seen for peritraumatic emotional distress such as losing control of emotions and being ashamed of emotional reactions. In multiple linear regression analysis, PDI total score was an independent predictor for PTSD symptoms after adjusting for covariates. As for covariates specifically, watching earthquake television news reports for more than 4 hours per day predicted PTSD symptoms. The PDI predicted PTSD symptoms in rescue workers after the Great East Japan Earthquake. Peritraumatic emotional distress appears to be an important factor to screen for individuals at risk for developing PTSD among medical rescue workers. In addition, watching television for extended period of time might require attention at a time of crisis.