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THREE YEARS AFTER: Stress-related deaths reach 2,973 in Tohoku, asahi, 3/7/14

Stress-related deaths have exceeded the death toll of those directly killed by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in Fukushima Prefecture, as Asahi Shimbun survey showed.

As of the end of January, in the three hardest-hit prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima, 2,973 people had died from physical and psychological fatigue since the disaster struck on March 11, 2011, the survey showed.

Fukushima Prefecture, which hosts the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, accounted for 1,660 of those deaths, compared with 1,607 deaths directly caused by the magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami.

The stress-related death toll was 879 for Miyagi Prefecture and 434 for Iwate Prefecture, according to the survey.

In Fukushima Prefecture, more than 130,000 people have been evacuated because of the nuclear accident, and the emotional strain from living away from home is taking a toll.

“Older people tend to get ill due to changes in their environments,” a prefectural government official said. “Stress from anxiety about an unforeseeable return home also affects their health and can lead to death.”

According to Fukushima Prefecture, more than 80 percent of stress-related deaths in the prefecture occurred among residents of 11 municipalities with designated evacuation zones following the 2011 disaster.

Among the applications for recognition as disaster-related victims, 83.0 percent were accepted as such in Fukushima Prefecture, 59.4 percent in Iwate Prefecture and 75.5 percent in Miyagi Prefecture, the survey showed.

The number of stress-related deaths in the three prefectures was 2,634 in March 2013, according to the Reconstruction Agency, meaning the number has increased by 339 over the following 10 months.

There are no legal standards to recognize deaths from physical and mental fatigue following a tsunami or nuclear power accident. The designation is determined by municipalities, and this has led to disputes concerning public consolation payment.

Once recognized as a disaster victim, those considered the breadwinners of their families are granted 5 million yen while others receive 2.5 million yen in consolation payments.

Nearly 3,000 post-disaster deaths have been recognized as disaster-related, but the case of Sayo Takano was not one of them.

An evacuee from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, she had been transferred to and from hospitals and care facilities. She died in a hospital in January 2012 at the age of 90.

Her son, Mitsuji Takano, a resident of Minami-Soma and Fukushima prefectural assembly member, applied to the city for recognition of her death as disaster-related in December 2012.

The city rejected the application in February 2013.

“(Sayo) was in a position of receiving care at any time,” the city said. “And we cannot recognize a direct relation between the disaster and the cause of her death.”

Takano, 61, filed a lawsuit with the Fukushima District Court.

“My mother died after being deprived of her strength to live because of the unforeseeable evacuation,” Takano said.

278,000 evacuees remain nearly 1,000 days after March 2011 disaster, mainichi 12/5/14

TOKYO (Kyodo) — As many as 278,000 people remained evacuees Nov. 14 as a result of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011, the Reconstruction Agency said Wednesday, 1,000 days after the disaster.

The number marked a fall from a peak of about 470,000.

The evacuees include 49,554 who have left Fukushima Prefecture, where the disaster caused a serious nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant, the agency said.

The earthquake-tsunami disaster killed 15,883 people and left 2,651 others unaccounted for as of Nov. 8. Search for the missing still continues in the tsunami-hit coastal zones.

An additional 2,688 deaths, including those from evacuation-caused health deterioration and suicides, were related to the disaster by the end of March this year.

Evacuated students returning to schools in Fukushima Prefecture, fukushima minpo, 12/4/13

Students who evacuated to outside Fukushima Prefecture have gradually returned to their home prefecture as 1,000 days passed on Dec. 4 since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, as well as the subsequent nuclear disaster.
In the Watari district of the prefectural capital of Fukushima, where the dosage of radiation was relatively high, around 80 students left the Watari Elementary School shortly after the outbreak of the nuclear disaster.
Three students came back to the primary school in the 2012 school year. Nine more students came back since the start of the current academic year on April 1.
Toshiyuki Nakamura, principal of the school, said the progress of radiation decontamination work at houses and buildings was helping students return to the school.
The number of primary school students wearing masks sharply decreased from the spring. Nakamura said parents have come to feel safe living in the Watari district.
One of the school’s sixth graders said the students always wore masks when they played on the school ground two years ago. “We studied in classrooms closing windows even in summer. Now, we can play on the school ground without paying attention to radiation,” the student said.
The number of evacuees aged 17 or younger in Fukushima Prefecture stood at 27,617 as of Oct. 1, a decrease of 2,492 from 30,109 on April 1, 2012, prefectural government data show.
In the prefectural capital of Fukushima, the number of primary and junior high school students who evacuated to outside the city without changing the registry of residence hit the peak of 924 at the end of July 2012. But the figure declined to 807 as of Nov. 29.

Fukushima loses first high school to meltdowns, fukushima minpo, 11/29/13

【Translated by The Japan Times】A private high school in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, will close for good at the end of March because the nuclear disaster has decimated enrollment, school officials said.
Shoei High School, founded in 1957, will be the first in the prefecture to close its doors permanently since the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant began unfolding on March 11, 2011.
Although many schools in or near the radioactive 20-km exclusion zone around the plant have relocated in the hope of maintaining unity and continuity, Shoin Gakuen, which runs Shoei High, chose to recognize the obvious: the school is a financial dead-end.
“We don’t see any future prospects under the present situation brought about by the nuclear accident,” said Kazuhiko Sasaki, general affairs chief of Shoin Gakuen. “Despite many regrets, we decided to shut the school down at the executive board.”
Although the southern part of Minamisoma is in the 20-km hot zone and the school sits outside it, it is just 22 km away from the stricken nuclear plant.
Late last month, Shoin Gakuen submitted its plan for closing the school with the prefectural government, which approved it. But enrollment actually halted in the 2012 school year in light of its dim prospects for survival.
For Shoin Gakuen, the next step was obvious: Demand compensation from Tokyo Electric Power Co., the plant’s owner.
Officials at Shoei High said they plan to negotiate directly with Tepco first, but if the talks bog down, are prepared to bring the matter to the government-run mediation center or sue Tepco in court for damages.
Founded in 1957, Shoei High School, the only privately run learning facility in the area serving Minamisoma and the adjacent town of Futaba, has produced more than 8,000 alumni to date. Another hundred were scheduled to enroll in April 2011.
After the disaster, about 40 of the 100 were enrolled in another senior high school run by Shoin Gakuen in the city of Fukushima. The rest were admitted to other schools around the prefecture.
Shoei High is not the only school with shortages. Eight public high schools in the area have failed to achieve their quota for new students in the past two years. Each school was forced to relocate by the nuclear crisis.
Under the rules set by the Fukushima Prefectural Board of Education, a public high school that fails to meet half its student quota for three consecutive years must be closed temporarily.
Of the eight, five are in Futaba, which is south of Minamisoma but hosts the Fukushima plant in conjunction with the town of Okuma. Four of the five have missed their quota for two years in a row.
But education board officials said the schools will be considered exceptions because of the extreme circumstances caused by the meltdowns.
Meanwhile, the education authority in Futaba has drawn up a guideline for reorganizing its schools that revolves around a plan to create a new school by combining junior high and high schools.
The cost of the overhaul will be included in the prefecture’s fiscal 2014 budget, officials said.
The new step means the Fukushima education board will block new students from enrolling at the five high schools in Futaba and consider them “temporarily closed.”
This section, appearing every third Monday, focuses on topics and issues covered by the Fukushima Minpo, the largest newspaper in Fukushima Prefecture. The original article was published Nov. 29.

Poll highlights refugees’ difficulties in rebuilding homes, japan times, 10/21/13

MORIOKA – Prospects for housing remain tenuous for many refugees 2½ years after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, a new poll shows.

Two-thirds of the 213 refugees in temporary housing in Morioka reported there was no chance of rebuilding their homes, city officials said Monday.

Fifty-one percent of the respondents to the poll, conducted in August and September, said they have no land or funds to build new homes. In addition, 15 percent said they have either land or the funds, but not both.

The majority of the respondents were 60 or above. Most are from coastal areas devastated by tsunami. Some are from Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures.

Nearly 38 percent of the respondents said they hope to settle in Morioka. But 25.0 percent want to return to their former residences and 32.1 percent have no specific plan.

“As a pensioner, I have no financial resources to build a new home,” one respondent said in a written response to the poll.

“Unless I find a job, I cannot make any housing plan,” another said.

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