national

Post-tsunami deaths due to stress, illness outnumber disaster toll in Fukushima

41 Comments
By Beverly Parungao

Health complications stemming from Japan's 2011 tsunami have killed more people in one Japanese region than the disaster itself, the local authority says.

Data compiled by officials and police show that almost three years after the huge waves smashed ashore, 1,656 people living in Fukushima Prefecture have died from stress and other illnesses related to the disaster, compared with 1,607 who were killed in the initial calamity.

"The biggest problem is the fact that people have been living in temporary conditions for so long," Hiroyuki Harada, a Fukushima official dealing with victim assistance, told AFP.

"People have gone through dramatic changes of their environment. As a result, people who would not have died are dying," he said.

Along with the prefectures of Miyagi and Iwate, Fukushima was one of the worst hit parts of Japan when a huge 9.0 undersea earthquake sent a wall of water barrelling into the coast.

The waves swept more than 18,000 people to their deaths across the country, and destroyed entire communities.

Fukushima was also hit with the resulting nuclear disaster after cooling systems at the Daiichi nuclear plant were knocked out, sending reactors into meltdown and forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of people.

Almost three years on, many people remain displaced, whether because their homes around the power plant have not been declared safe or because rebuilding along the coast has been slow.

Officials say that as well as those who died in the early stages of the disaster, through lack of initial care because medical facilities were hobbled, a growing number of people are dying from the physical and mental stress of staying at shelters, including through suicide.

Some families of those who have killed themselves have tried to hold plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) accountable through the legal system.

Last year, relatives of Hisashi Tarukawa won an out-of-court settlement after the 64-year-old hanged himself from a tree in a vegetable field when authorities banned the shipment of some farm produce from Fukushima.

"This is different from normal, natural disasters. People who live in shelters are forced to live there, away from their home towns and villages, where they lived for a long time," Harada said. "They are forced to live the kinds of lives they are not used to."

According to the Reconstruction Agency, up until September around 90% of those dying from indirect causes were 66 or older, Kyodo News reported.

While both Iwate and Miyagi suffered higher tolls in the initial disaster, the number of indirect deaths in both prefectures is lower than in Fukushima, at 434 and 879 respectively.

The small Fukushima city of Minamisoma has been the worst-hit, with 447 deaths indirectly blamed on the disaster, followed by 317 in Namie town and 225 in Tomioka town.

Parts of Minamisoma and all of Namie and Tomioka remain off-limits because of still-elevated radiation levels.

A large tract around Fukushima remains either out-of-bounds or somewhere people are only permitted to make brief day visits. Scientists say some areas may have to be abandoned, but politicians are reluctant to formalise that step.

Other people have fled areas that are officially declared safe, unwilling to trust government pronouncements.

Many communities are now scattered throughout the northeast, living with relatives or in rented apartments, while some remain in the flimsy pre-fabricated homes that were thrown up in the months after the disaster.

Campaigners say the sense of impermanence and the fracturing of families and communities has led to a marked increase in medical problems among evacuees, especially mental illnesses like depression.

© (c) 2014 AFP

©2018 GPlusMedia Inc.

41 Comments
Login to comment

This story seems to suggest that the vast majority of deaths occurred during the disaster but outside of Fukushima. Nearly 20,000 people died from the tsunami wave, with only around 1,600 from Fukushima.

That's surprising to me.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

“The biggest problem is the fact that people have been living in temporary conditions for so long,” Hiroyuki Harada, a Fukushima official dealing with victim assistance, told AFP.

Thank the government that is suppose to take care of its people but only has been busy squabbling about the damn 2020 Olympics.

I am always amazed at how fast Japanese build houses and other buildings, but am surprised that it is going so extremely slow in Tohoku. Or perhaps, somehow the donations didn't arrive in the right place???? hmmmmm

17 ( +18 / -1 )

Data compiled by officials and police show that almost three years after the huge waves smashed ashore, 1,656 people living in Fukushima Prefecture have died from stress and other illnesses related to the disaster, compared with 1,607 who were killed in the initial calamity.

Simply criminal and shows a complete lack of true compassion and responsibility by the J-government. But, don't worry, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is going to raise all these folks' spirits.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

All this while TEPCO claims profits.

11 ( +14 / -3 )

Breaks my heart to read this :(

11 ( +11 / -0 )

This story seems to suggest that the vast majority of deaths occurred during the disaster but outside of Fukushima. Nearly 20,000 people died from the tsunami wave, with only around 1,600 from Fukushima.

That's surprising to me.

Miyagi and Iwate took the full brunt of the Tsunami - there were more than 3000 deaths in Ishinomaki alone.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

tip of the iceberg.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Well said @jerseyboy, putting profit before people surely makes a noxious result. These building companies will abandon the reconstruction projects to facilitate people lives given the massively lucrative Olympic construction deals that always enttail with corruption. Sickening.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

It would be interesting to see comparable data for Miyagi and Iwate.

I also wonder how many of the deaths were from the stress of fears stoked by the media about radiation?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Predicted by credible scientist around the world from the start. So the focus should be there on stress related deaths.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Tepco makes huge profits while the Fukushima residents still live in temporary housing, and no one at tepco charged or in jail. Something wrong there.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Is it still all under control?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Totally agree with jerseyboy. Simply criminal.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

What happened to the millions upon millions of foreign-raised aid? I have a lot of friend at home in the states who contributed and are confused why there are still temporary houses? wtf Japanese gvt!

5 ( +7 / -2 )

"The waves swept more than 18,000 people to their deaths across the country..."

Very odd wording.

" a growing number of people are dying from the physical and mental stress of staying at shelters, including through suicide."

Another failure to understand the difference between "shelter" and "temporary housing".

"This is different from normal, natural disasters. People who live in shelters are forced to live there, away from their home towns and villages, where they lived for a long time,” Harada said. “They are forced to live the kinds of lives they are not used to.”

Is Harada really meaning to imply that in "normal, natural" disasters people continue living in their original homes in their communities going about their ordinary lives? There are real and significant differences between the situation in Fukushima and the other areas but this quote does nothing to illuminate that and makes no sense.

@JeffLee Data on the number of dead and missing by prefecture in the tsunami has been available for years.

@papiguilio Who in government has been squabbling about the 2020 Olympics? As for the slow rebuilding, it is a very complex issue. Please look carefully into the situation in each individual community before making such sweeping statements.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

How long does it take? The 3rd biggest economy in the world? Citizens of said country still living in shelters? Millions donated, N-Industry required to put money aside (Legally they were/are required to have enough cash to pay compensation should the worst happen. Not much news about that?) yet we now know it's an internal refugee camp. Where has the money gone? Why are there still citizens living in squalard conditions? I hope the Olimpics lift their spirits.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Look, they aren't living in shelters (apart from the few in Saitama who have chosen to live there), the rest are in temporary housing. And yes the temporary houses are small and relatively unpleasant but they are better than shelters. And it's important to stress there's a difference in having your own room And it's worth remembering that Christchurch, which has just remembered it's third anniversary, also has many of it's citizens living in temporary housing with no end in sight. And that's just one city, never mind numerous towns and cities along a vast coastline.

Could it be better? Absolutely. Should it be better? Without a doubt.

But I sometimes think that the people on here think it was a choice between doing something in Tohoku or the Olympics.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

The National Police Agency confirmed 15,884 deaths, 6,147 injuries, and 2,636 people missing across twenty prefectures. Someone needs to get the facts straight. Maybe the article is too early for the topic, as I understand that numerous others are now sick due to exposure to radiation ... including members of the US military to provided aid.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

@papigiulio and jerseyboy

I have been saying the same as both of you but maybe I don't express myself properly because I'm always thumbed down... I certainly thumbed you both up !

Not only is "everything under control" (sic and "sick") but also we must now focus on the Olympics while TEPCO is making profits... Criminal is the correct word !

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Is this really happening in Japan ??? Where is compassion ??? In Japan..it is really sad~

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Good Lord, the people displaced are forgotten! It's not a poor country???? There are bigger problems to solve, Olympics? Why are these people having to wait for compensation? Is there doubt about their environment being destroyed due to circumstance beyond their control? I would pay more tax IF I could trust the despots to pass it on without taking a bit, and a bit , and a bit.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Give all the contracts to your crony Yakuza pals and this is the result. They couldn't care less about the people, only cutting corners and maximising profits. Tohoku, Fukushima, 2020 Olympics - all Yakuza.

Nothing will ever change.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I've been reading articles like this for the last two years. There has also been quite a few TV specials documenting the plight of these nuclear refugees. However, no one has been held directly responsible or held accountable for the continued suffering of these people. I remember Abe clearly stating in his election campaign that, he would put the Fukushima people's plight as a priority, but he has done stuff all! TEPCO just keeps fobbing off anybody that tries to make a stand and get some compensation from them. Even the person that sued them was given a wad of cash outside of court so TEPCO could avoid the court system. It's a truly disgusting situation and, unfortunately, it is going to continue forever because no one is going to be held accountable. This shows the true policies of the Japanese governmental system and Abenomics. Companies will turn profits and the rich will get richer at the expense of the middle and lower classes. Welcome to Japan!

1 ( +4 / -3 )

But I sometimes think that the people on here think it was a choice between doing something in Tohoku or the Olympics.

Heda -- but in fact IT IS, at least as it comes to priorities. Abe-san made getting the 2020 Games his #1 priority and it got whatever personal time/attention, government time/attention, and even strong-arming Japanese companies to support the effort where needed. He mobilized Japan-Inc to its fullest extent. (And, under the false pretense that it was some how linked to the "recovery".) Why has he not done the same for Fukushima?

1 ( +4 / -3 )

I totally agree that it should be the priority - that goes without question. And it's not just Fukushima but also Miyagi and Iwate - Iwate is further away - less of a concern for Tokyo etc

But it's also wrong to say that it's their only concern.

But rebuilding all of those areas will take years - you need to sort out the sea walls before anything can be done and then the allocaion of land. It is a slow process... painfully slow... but I dare say that there are parts of New Orleans which are also still in a bad state.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Many would of been better off in their homes even with elevated radiation.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Media and anti-nuke crowd killed more people than the nuclear disaster (which was zero, by the way) by spreading FUD. At the same time, they claim to hold a monopoly on the interests of the people of Fukushima. It's really sad.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Next month, in fact in a couple of weeks it will be three years since about 160,000 people or about 50,000 households fled from radiation clouds caused by the world's second largest level 7 nuclear disaster which to date has used up ¥10 trillion of public money and will use another ¥25 trillion over the next 10 years and will eventually need more than ¥50 trillion.

The Fukushima nuclear refugee's are still waiting for their compensation payments because most of them will never be able to return to their former homes and communities, although too many are still holding onto that dream.

Even though they wait for compensation payments, they have received support payments every month and are in a better position than others from places like Miyagi who also lost everything to the powerful earthquake and tsunami but don't receive support and won't be getting any compensation payments, and in many cases they won't be getting insurance payments because they didn't have tsunami insurance.

All of the displaced from the three disasters are living in temporary accommodation, or found their own new accommodation and maybe even up to a third of those people have moved out of the area altogether.

It must be very stressful for anyone to lose their loved ones and their homes and property and for those from Fukushima to worry about their radiation exposures, especially their young children.

According to officials, 1,656 Fukushima people have died from stress compared with 1,607 who were killed from the nuclear disaster and none from radiation exposure, at least to date. How many died in the period before the nuclear disaster?

Legally, the temporary housing have a 5 year life cycle and must be demolished. More than 10,000 units are in need of serious repairs. They are very hot in the summer and very cold in the winter. Better than living in emergency shelters but the national gov't and the local ones need to increase their effort for the reconstruction of Tohoku.

There's no problem with money and in fact, ¥millions were returned to the central gov't because the local gov't's had been unable to use it on time. There are many very difficult problems like the debris removal which won't be complete until late next year. Deciding where and how to rebuild the communities so there's no future danger from tsunami. Some communities are not worth rebuilding because the people who lived there were very old. Lack of public land space on the mountains.

Kobe City took 15 years to rebuild, Tohoku will probably be more like 50 years. There are places in Italy which were destroyed by earthquakes more than 30 years ago and the people are still waiting for the rebuilding.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

And how many bailouts has TEPCO received to date so that they could make profit again?

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Jeff Lee: "Nearly 20,000 people died from the tsunami wave, with only around 1,600 from Fukushima." Jeff, when you say "from Fukushima" you should be reading "within Fukushima prefecture". That 1600 is people killed directly by the tsunami or killed in the earthquake. It doesn't mean 1600 killed by the nuclear disaster.

David Foley, You can tell your friends at home: donations to the RedCross etc. bought: bedding, refrigerators, heaters, TV, washing machines, pots, pans, rice cookers, etc. for the people who lost everything. As new high ground is cleared and new housing is built, the people moving out of temporary housing take these essentials with them. Please thank them again for their generosity. It is greatly appreciated.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Tepco makes huge profits while the Fukushima residents still live in temporary housing,

Ehh... is TEPCO REALLY making "huge profits" anymore? Somebody have a balance sheet for them since March 2011?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I guess it depends on what you consider huge, and whether you count the government bailout. But: http://www.japantoday.com/category/business/view/tepco-reports-y772-9-bil-profit-in-3rd-quarter 770 billion yen in profits (~$7.7 billion) sounds pretty huge to me.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Is this really happening in Japan ??? Where is compassion ??? In Japan..it is really sad~>

Nobody in Tokyo gives a toss as long as they have enough brand bags. Now, if Gucci had had a factory in Fukushima, there would have been outrage.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Among those living in temporary housing after the Great East Japan Earthquake, there are many who have lost their jobs, are bereft of their hobbies and social connections with neighbors, and are living introvert lives. Many of these people also have significantly fewer opportunities for physical exercise. As a result, an increasing number are suffering from weakening in their backs and legs, and thrombi [plural of thrombus] in the blood vessels of their legs. Thrombosis, if left untreated, is a dangerous disease that can cause necrosis or sudden death, among other things. Radiation Exposure also causes Deep Vein Thrombosis

Radiation Exposure by Marjorie Montemayor-Quellenberg, MA

http://www.bidmc.org/YourHealth/Conditions-AZ/Deep-Vein-Thrombosis.aspx?ChunkID=642484

http://aarjapan.blogspot.com/2013/08/great-east-japan-earthquake-lets.html

http://www.bidmc.org/YourHealth/Conditions-AZ/Deep-Vein-Thrombosis.aspx

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Honest Abe's government and the so- called doctors and experts throughout Japan's response "but but none of these deaths are radiation related" .. Just like the high incidence of thyroid abnormalities in the region!!

@Fandango- you nailed it on the head buddy couldn't agree more!!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

There are many parts of Japan outside of the Northeast area hit by the Tsunami that are experiencing population decreases and many empty homes. The Government should look at relocation to those areas.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Finally a reporter that is not afraid to say that the rectors had meltdowns.

Fukushima will never be safe for the radiation levels keep on rising due to the fact that the government will not force TEPCO to actually fix the problem by burying the whole four plants in a concrete/lead barrier at least 20 foot thick in the form of a coffin. Every picture that TEPCO shows how they are removing the rods are from before the tsunami destroyed all four reactors. the Japanese government raised the safe level of radiation contamination higher than it is safe to be in but now allows even 'children' to be at risk of dying a horrible death not seen in Japan since the end of WWII.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Bear27840

Exactly,... Preach

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Nobody in Tokyo gives a toss as long as they have enough brand bags. Now, if Gucci had had a factory in Fukushima, there would have been outrage.

Funny. I know of a number of Tokyo based organisations that are still very active in Fukushima. Still raising money. Still supporting them.

Where did you get your information from?

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Fukushima will never be safe for the radiation levels...

Bear27840. Please be specific.

Do you mean Fukushima-City? All of Fukushima prefecture? The towns and villages around the Daiichi plant? People who insist on tarring the entire area with the same brush just spread the stress. Please STOP.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Utrack

Radiation Exposure also causes Deep Vein Thrombosis

Which exactly Zero of your links say.

Bear27840

Every picture that TEPCO shows how they are removing the rods are from before the tsunami destroyed all four reactors.

What gave the game away for you?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites