FUKUSHIMA–Fukushima Prefecture’s population has declined by 5.7 percent since 2010, its largest recorded drop and the cause of a widening gender gap in some areas, according to national census figures announced on Dec. 25.
The population drop is mainly due to ongoing evacuations following the Fukushima nuclear disaster, according to the preliminary figures released by the prefectural government.
The prefecture lost 39,715 men and 75,743 women, a decrease of 4 percent and 7.3 percent from 2010, respectively. The difference is thought to have been caused partly by the majority male presence in reconstruction efforts.
A prefectural government official said the diminishing population is “attributable to a considerable number of people who have evacuated to places outside Fukushima Prefecture.”
On the gap between the male and female populations in some municipalities, the official said, “I assume that most of the workers who relocate themselves to these municipalities for the purpose of carrying out work related to nuclear power plants and reconstruction efforts are male, but many of the evacuees are female.”
The national census figures are the first released by the prefectural government since the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, which triggered the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
Fukushima prefecture’s population as of Oct. 1 stood at 1,913,606, down 115,458, or 5.7 percent, from the last census in 2010.
Among the six towns and villages where the entire population has left under evacuation orders, four towns recorded zero inhabitants: Okuma and Futaba, which co-host the nuclear plant, and nearby Tomioka and Namie.
The village of Katsurao had 18 people who have returned to their homes after being evacuated. They are recorded as temporary residents, but the central government is working to make their resettlement permanent. Katsurao’s evacuation order is scheduled to be lifted next spring.
Naraha, where an evacuation order was lifted on Sept. 5, also experienced a massive decrease in its population, with 976 people living in the area, down 6,724 people, or 87.3 percent, from 2010. The figures illustrate the fact that few evacuees have opted to return home.
The town of Hirono, where a large portion of the population is involved in nuclear reactor decommissioning work, tallied a male population of 2,746, up 2.3 percent from 2010. The female population, on the other hand, was about half that figure at 1,577, down 42.3 percent.
The population figures are based on the number of people living in the prefecture as of Oct. 1, irrespective of whether they are registered as local citizens.
In areas where entry is restricted due to high levels of radiation from the nuclear accident, municipal employees and police officers were deployed to survey the population for the census.
The population of 39 municipalities ravaged in the 2011 disaster shrank by 92,000, or 6.7 percent, over four years, a rate more than eight times faster than Japan’s overall population decline, an Asahi Shimbun survey showed.
Of the 42 local governments surveyed, only the Miyagi prefectural capital of Sendai and its two neighboring municipalities, the town of Rifu and Natori city, saw their populations increase following the disaster.
The decrease in the remaining municipalities included residents who were among the nearly 16,000 people killed when the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami devastated the Tohoku coast on March 11, 2011.
The Asahi Shimbun compared the number of resident registrations in 42 cities, towns and villages in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures on March 1 or Feb. 28, 2011, shortly before the disaster, with those on Feb. 1 or Jan. 31 this year.
The municipalities included coastal areas hit by the earthquake and tsunami and those in Fukushima Prefecture that were evacuated after the accident unfolded at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
The coastal town of Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture, had the largest population decline, of 29.1 percent. The town still lacks employment opportunities and necessary infrastructure, forcing residents to continue moving out, an Onagawa official said.
The internal affairs ministry estimates Japan’s overall population shrank by 0.8 percent during the four-year period. The average rate of decline in the 40 prefectures that saw shrinking populations was 1.7 percent.
Ten municipalities surveyed had population declines exceeding 10 percent. Six are located along the coasts of Iwate and Miyagi prefectures, including Rikuzentakata, Otsuchi and Minami-Sanriku, whose urban centers were destroyed by the tsunami.
Reconstruction of housing remains nowhere in sight in many of these municipalities.
The remaining four municipalities are in Fukushima Prefecture, including the town of Futaba, which co-hosts the crippled Fukushima No. 1 power plant. These municipalities have areas designated as “difficult-to-return zones,” where high radiation levels will likely prevent residents from returning for a long time.
Sendai and the two nearby municipalities saw a combined population increase of more than 30,000 people over the four years. Municipal officials cited an influx of residents from other disaster-affected areas and reconstruction projects that have drawn many workers from around Japan.
FUKUSHIMA–Nearly half of households that evacuated following the Fukushima nuclear disaster have been split up while close to 70 percent have family members suffering from physical and mental distress, a survey showed.
The number of households forced to live apart exceeds the number that remain together, according the survey, the first by the Fukushima prefectural government that attempted to survey all households that evacuated.
The results were announced on April 28.
Between late January and early February, Fukushima Prefecture mailed the surveys to 62,812 households living within and outside the prefecture.
Of the 20,680 respondents, 16,965 households, or 82 percent, originally lived in the evacuation zone near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, while 3,683 households, or 18 percent, lived outside the zone but voluntarily evacuated after the nuclear accident unfolded in March 2011.
It was unclear if the remaining 32 households were originally within the evacuation zone.
Some 44.7 percent of the households still lived with all family members at their new homes. The figure included single-person households.
But 48.9 percent of households said their family members now live at two or more locations, including 15.6 percent whose family members are scattered at three or more locations, according to the survey.
The results showed that many households in municipalities near the nuclear plant originally contained many family members, but they were forced to give up living together as their lives in evacuation continued.
Families are often divided over the degree of fear about radiation contamination. Locations of workplaces and schools also split families, while many members end up living in separate temporary housing.
The prolonged life in evacuation, now in its fourth year, is taking a toll. The survey revealed that 67.5 percent of all households had family members showing symptoms of physical or psychological distress.
More than 50 percent said the cause of their ailments was that they “can no longer enjoy things as they did before” or they “have trouble sleeping.”
“Being constantly frustrated” and “tending to feel gloomy and depressed” followed, at over 40 percent.
More than one-third of respondents, or 34.8 percent, said their “chronic illness has worsened” since they entered their lives as evacuees.
The number of people who have died alone at temporary housing facilities for evacuees in Fukushima Prefecture since the Great East Japan Earthquake and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident reached 34 as of March 31, according to prefectural police data. April 11 marked three years and one month since the 2011 catastrophe.
Prefectural and municipal authorities have reinforced efforts to prevent deaths associated with the disaster, including improvement in the living environment, but the data brought into sharp relief the stark reality of the increase in such solitary deaths among evacuees.
The prefectural police force has no solitary death tally, but Fukushima Minpo reporters counted the number of evacuees living alone and found dead since the disaster. The chart elsewhere shows the number of such deaths each year since 2011 through the end of March 2014. It rose from three in 2011 to 11 in 2012 and 12 in 2013, standing at eight in the first three months of 2014.
Of the 34 deceased, men accounted for 27 and women seven. The male proportion is nearly 80%. By generation, the largest number was those in their 60s at 12 (including one woman), followed by the 70s bracket at eight (all men), the 80s or older category at eight (including six women), the 50s at four (all men) and the 30s at two (both men). People aged 65 or older accounted for 24 (including seven women), or about 70% of the total.
Chart: Changes in number of solitary deaths at temporary housing (light-blue bars indicating men and navy-blue ones women)
(Translated by Kyodo News)
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.