The Cost in Human Lives Grows

The estimated number of victims has been re-evaluated at 30,000. There is growing concern for the 600,000 refugees faced with icy temperatures and deprivation.

The cost in human life of the earthquake and sunami, which ravaged the north-east coast of Japan last Friday, keeps on growing. According to recent evaluations by local authorities, there will certainly be about 30,000 victims, taking into account the thousands of persons still reported missing in the coastal regions, the regions most severely damaged.

While a cold wave is settling over that region, those who have escaped, men, women, children, the aged, have to crowd together in shelters where the conditions for hygiene are precarious. Everything is lacking there, electricity, telephone, food, water, blankets, medicines …

Nearly 600,000 persons have been evacuated in this way toward 2600 temporary sites, set up with whatever comes to hand.

The region lives, in truth, a terrible human crisis. With the arrival of many orphans or persons having lost most of the members of their families, having been carried off by the floods or buried in the ruins of their homes. “The people are exhausted, mentally and physically”, reports Yasunobo Sasaki, director of a school transformed into a shelter, to the special envoy of the AFP [1] in Rikuzentakata, a city of 24,500 inhabitants in the Iwate prefecturate, almost entirely reduced to ruin. Ten temporary toilets have been built, installations consisting of wooden planks over a simple hole in the ground. But this did not suffice for the 1800 refugees, the school director states. And the supply of medicine for the chronically ill is much reduced.

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Routes, rail lines, electric or otherwise, harbors, all infrastructures have been severely damaged. This impedes rescue operations and transport of material, despite the mobilization of some 100,000 soldiers in the affected zones.

The increase in the levels of radioactivity resulting from the cascade of accidents at the nuclear site of Fukushima, not far away, naturally complicates the situation further, rendering it necessary to transport material to protect the rescue workers and populations exposed to potentially murderous radiation.

[1] Agence France Presse