There is another on-going and little-reported crisis in Japan aside from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant: non-recovery from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and worsening health crisis in Tohoku.
In many cities in towns in the Tohoku region affected by the earthquake and tsunami, the vital services such as water and gas are not yet available. At one shelter, the evacuees have resorted to washing their clothes in the nearby river, as if this were 19th century Japan (Picture from Asahi Shinbun: Minami Sanriku City in Miyagi Prefecture, as only 1% of water service in the city has been restored.)
The Japanese government seems to take advantage of stoic perseverance that has always been the virtue of Tohoku people. Since they don't hear loud complaints, they don't do anything. The Self Defense Force has decreased the number of cleanup crews in the affected areas, even though hardly anything seems to have been cleared.
Most of Japan has entered the rainy season, and the typhoon season is also approaching. There are still nearly 90,000 people living in the official shelters throughout the region. As the politicians fiddle, despair seems to be deepening in Tohoku.
The guest post by Tokyo Brown Tabby highlights, of all things, rotten fish and their health implications for the residents.
And that bit about temporary housing is so stereotypically and bureaucratically Japanese. Did you know that once you get your temporary housing, you can't receive food any more because you are no longer in the official shelter? And once in the temporary house you get to pay your utilities, too, whether you have a job or not. Remember, many of these people do not have a cent (I should say yen) on them, as they didn't have time to take much when they barely escaped from tsunami.
It is very hard to believe this is (or was) the technologically advanced, 3rd largest economy in the world.
(Tokyo Brown Tabby's post follows, with some edit; I also added some links)
Silent Crisis in Tohoku
by Tokyo Brown Tabby
With the rainy and typhoon seasons approaching and temperature rising, there are serious concerns that infectious diseases might spread in the earthquake/tsunami-struck areas.
From what? Rotten fish. When the earthquake and tsunami destroyed the refrigerated storage and processing facilities for fish, the fish started to rot.
Conditions are already bad for the residents and evacuees in Tohoku:
-lots of dust rising from debris and rubble
-awful smell of wet and moldy piles of wooden debris and tatami mats
-awful smell of sludge
And now they have:
-awful smell of rotten fish (mostly from many devastated seafood processing plants) and smell of bird feces feeding on those rotten fish (picture from Jiji News)
-great number of big flies (more than 2cm long, which is roughly more than 3 quarters of an inch long) attracted by the rotten fish; according to one news (link is in Japanese), these flies grow so big and fat feeding on rotten fish that they can't even fly and are being eaten by seagulls
-threat of mosquitoes as summer approaches, as well as rats and cockroaches
They have been spraying insecticides and deodorizers in vain, since huge amount of rotten seafood products are still under piles and piles of rubble. Unless all the debris and rubble, rotten fish and all that are completely removed, there is no stopping the hideous smells and mass breeding of those pests that could transmit diseases.
On June 12, on a night news program called "Mr. Sunday" (Fuji TV), they showed a short video clip of a school baseball team practicing wearing gauze masks. It was a strange sight. Without the masks, many would get sick from the bad smell, the coach said in the video.
In the same news program, I learned that:
-More than 20,000 temporary houses have been built, but only about 45% of them are occupied, because once evacuees move to these temporary houses, all the food supply would be cut off and they would have to pay for utilities even though many of them are still unemployed.
-In one city in Miyagi Prefecture, the number of drunk driving has doubled, since alcoholism has increased due to mental depression
-Number of volunteer workers during the 3 month period since the earthquake occurred is only one third of those in Kobe Earthquake in 1995; the affected areas this time are far wider, and much farther and much harder to travel to from the big cities.
According the Ministry of Defense website, about 69,200 members of Self-Defense Forces are in action as of June 10, which have shrunk from the maximum number of more than 100,000. But it seems that more is needed, more efforts from government are needed, to remove those endless piles of rubble.
Otherwise, having survived the devastating earthquake and tsunami, people in the affected areas in Tohoku might lose their precious lives to infectious diseases which is totally avoidable.
This is another imminent crisis. I hope the world and the international health community will pay attention to this issue.