The number of post-disaster deaths related to the Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and the ensuing Fukushima nuclear disaster — apart from direct deaths — has topped 3,000, a Mainichi Shimbun survey has shown, with the figure feared to increase further.
Prolonged evacuation and deteriorating health conditions have apparently contributed to the high figure, suggesting disaster victims are facing a great risk of death even after surviving the triple disasters. An analysis of government data has shown that the elderly were most vulnerable to post-disaster deaths, comprising 90 percent of such deaths as of last fall.
According to the Mainichi survey, there were 3,048 deaths related to the March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami and the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster, as of March 10 this year. This includes deaths related to the major earthquake that struck northern Nagano Prefecture on March 12, 2011 — the day after the Great East Japan Earthquake.
A separate survey by the Reconstruction Agency found there were 2,916 deaths related to the triple disasters in Tokyo and nine other prefectures as of Sept. 30 last year. Among them, 98 percent were in the three hardest-hit prefectures in northeast Japan — 1,572 in Fukushima Prefecture, 873 in Miyagi Prefecture, and 417 in Iwate Prefecture — followed by 41 in Ibaraki Prefecture.
By age, 90 percent of the post-disaster deaths involved those aged 66 or older, at 2,599, suggesting the quake-disaster has greatly affected the elderly both physically and psychologically. About 10 percent of deaths related to the triple disasters involved those aged 21 through 65, at 312, while five were aged 20 or younger.
Some 77 percent of the post-disaster deaths took place within the six months after the triple disasters, at 2,241. Among them, 1,156 died within the first month after the disasters, of which 449 passed away within the first week following the disasters.
As time passes by, it becomes more difficult to prove the causal relationship between the triple disasters and related deaths. The number of deaths recognized as related to the triple disasters more than one year after the March 2011 tragedy accounted for less than 10 percent of the entire 2,916 deaths recognized as such — at 280. Among them, 255 — or 90 percent — were Fukushima Prefecture residents, who were most affected by the nuclear disaster.