1,656 survivors have died from stress and other illnesses from the Fukushima disaster in the Fukushima region. 1,607 people were killed during the tsunami itself in Fukushima and over 18,000 people were killed in total across Japan.
Almost three years after that terrible day when an earthquake triggered tsunami slammed into Fukushima, many survivors are still displaced. Some are unable to return home because the area where their homes are is still considered unsafe, and some because rebuilding along the coast has been slow. Many building contractors are concentrating efforts around Tokyo for the Olympics.
As well as those survivors who died during the first weeks following the disaster through lack of medical supplies, a growing number of survivors are dying from the physical and mental stress of staying in government built shelters.
A growing number of survivors have taken their own lives, including my wife’s uncle, because there is simply very little support. My wife’s family has nowhere to go, they lost everything, it was all washed out to sea. Yet, the government wants them to continue living in cramped, flimsy, shelters that are fast rotting from the ground up.
Families who have lost loved ones through suicide have attempted to take legal action, holding TEPCO accountable. Last year survivor Hisashi Tarukawa hanged himself at one shelter when authorities banned the shipment of farm produce from Fukushima. His family won a settlement with TEPCO out-of-court. But why should families have to go through legal channels to get action and support from the government and TEPCO? Why does the government not provide the medical assistance that is so needed? Why is there no mental counselling?
The flimsy pre-fabricated shelters that were hastily built by the government are full of mould, dirty, and falling apart in many cases, yet the government is doing almost nothing to rectify the problem. Depression is setting in among many, and the situation is only going to get worse.
The people who live in these shelters are there with other families, living away from the comfort of their own homes and villages. They are forced to share facilities that are stretched to the limit. According to research, 90% of those dying in the shelters are over 66 years of age.
All this while TEPCO claims profits and the government is concentrating on the Olympics. Money is far more important than people in Japan.