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Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012

EDITORIAL

3/11 deaths that were preventable

On Aug. 21, the Reconstruction Agency in charge of reconstructing areas hit by the 3/11 disasters released a report on deaths that occurred during or after evacuation from the disasters, including the nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. It does not touch on deaths directly caused by the quake and subsequent tsunami, such as those of people killed by falling debris, by being trapped in fallen structures, or by being swept away by the tsunami.

The report is especially revealing about deaths in Fukushima Prefecture. The findings of the report should be thrust at officials of Tepco and the trade and industry ministry's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency and other members of the nuclear establishment, who may feel a false sense of complacency about the Fukushima nuclear crisis just because no local residents died from exposure to radioactive substances from Fukushima No. 1.

The report says that 433 deaths in the prefecture were attributable to physical and psychological fatigue suffered at temporary evacuation centers and 380 deaths to such fatigue during movement to such facilities. The death tallies overlap partly because the agency chose possible multiple causes of the deaths by studying data provided by the municipalities concerned.

These are staggering numbers. The report also says that 237 deaths in the prefecture were attributable to the suspension of hospital functions. As the report says, the government and the power industry must take a serious view of the fact that the deaths covered by it represent "lives that could have been saved" if proper measures had been taken.

As of March 31, 2011, a total of 1,632 people had died in nine prefectures and Tokyo during or after evacuation from the 3/11 disasters. There were 193 deaths in Iwate, 636 in Miyagi and 761 in Fukushima — the three prefectures hardest hit by the disasters.

Among 1,263 victims from municipalities that saw many deaths during and after evacuation or from municipalities where evacuation orders were issued in connection with the Fukushima nuclear crisis, about 90 percent were in their 70s or older (about 40 percent being in their 80s).

Pointing out that Fukushima Prefecture suffered more deaths than Iwate and Miyagi prefectures and that 380 people in the prefecture died due to physical and psychological fatigue during movement to temporary evacuation centers, the report said that evacuation in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear crisis should be regarded as a big factor behind the Fukushima deaths.

So, the power industry should stop trying to minimize the effects of the nuclear accident, as an employee of Chubu Electric Power Co. did during a July 16 public hearing in Nagoya. The employee was booed for stressing that no local residents had died of exposure to radiation from Fukushima No. 1 and for supporting the idea of keeping nuclear power generation at a 20 to 25 percent weight of the nation's total power generation in 2030.

The experience shows that Fukushima people had to evacuate with little preparation for such an emergency. It must not be forgotten that the government and Kansai Electric Power Co. restarted two reactors at Kepco's Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture in July without making any such preparations.



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