Fatigue from living the life of evacuees proving fatal

Staff writer

Physical and mental fatigue from the stress of evacuation is believed to be the main cause behind the deaths of those who survived the earthquake and tsunami last March but have died since, according to a survey released Thursday by the Reconstruction Agency.

The agency surveyed the reasons behind the deaths of 529 survivors from Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima, the prefectures hit hardest by the disasters. More than one reason could be given for the cause of death.

Fatigue from living as evacuees was named as the cause of death for 249 people, or 47 percent, the agency said. Of them, 40 percent died in hospitals, while 19 percent died in shelters, temporary housing or the homes of people they sought shelter with.

"Fatigue caused while traveling to shelters" was cited in 196 cases, or 37 percent of the total. Another 127 people, or 24 percent, died because their "illness deteriorated due to the shutdown of hospitals or change of hospitals." This was followed by 66 people, or 12 percent, who died from "stress after the earthquake and tsunami."

Another 26 people, or 5 percent, died because hospitals could not provide necessary treatment in the initial stage of their illness.

Twenty-one people, or 4 percent, reportedly died because of stress from the nuclear power plant crisis.

In Fukushima Prefecture, which hosts the crippled Fukushima No. 1 power plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co., 181 of the 321 people who died after the disasters, or 56 percent, succumbed to fatigue while evacuating. The agency noted that many evacuees had to move several times to new shelters as the area being evacuated grew.

People 70 years old or older accounted for 91 percent of those who died.

The intermediate report released Thursday was based on data on 529 people who had died by the end of June.

By the end of March, 1,632 people were acknowledged to have died in connection with the earthquake-tsunami-nuclear disaster in nine prefectures and Tokyo.

The agency is surveying 1,263 of those deaths in 18 cities and villages in the three hardest-hit prefectures. It will continue to survey the causes of deaths of the rest of the victims.

The Japan Times
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