TOKYO (Kyodo) — At least 81 people have died unattended in temporary housing since the 2011 quake-tsunami disaster in the three hardest-hit prefectures in northeastern Japan, a Kyodo News survey found Wednesday.
But the problem of so-called solitary deaths among survivors of the March 11 calamity two and a half years ago could be more widespread, with many having moved into houses rented by municipal offices for disaster victims over a broader area, potentially with their community links severed.
The tally, compiled as of Aug. 31 based on police data, breaks down into 21 solitary deaths in Iwate, 37 in Miyagi and 23 in Fukushima prefectures.
Of the total who died, 47 were over 65, and more than half died of heart and other diseases.
Despite efforts by municipal officials to confirm the safety of evacuees, some people refuse to accept checkup visits or give no response to other offers such as lending them mobile phones, officials said.
“There is no way to prevent solitary deaths but for residents to relate to each other,” said Toru Utsumi, 66, who promotes exchanges between community associations of various temporary housing sites in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture.
“Those who are able to become self-reliant early lead the way in leaving temporary housing, and some may be feeling irritated or impatient, but it’s important that everyone supports and takes care of each other,” he said.