Friday, 18 March 2011

Japan many remain without basic necessities

Of the approximated 700,000 people made homeless or displaced in Japan after last Friday’s annihilating earthquake wreaking complete destruction with the added tsunami, about 430,000 are in makeshift emergency shelters. Many remain without basic necessities, including food, electricity, heat and fuel. It has been snowing in the affected areas in the country’s north-east, with overnight temperatures plunging to –5 degrees Celsius (23 Fahrenheit). The situation poses grave dangers to the lives and health of survivors, especially the young elderly.

Japan’s Police have raised the official death toll as of midnight Wednesday to 4,314, across twelve administrative districts, while another 8,606 people remained unaccounted for in six districts. The government says that across the country, almost 2 million households are still without power, while millions more are subject to rolling blackouts and an estimated 1.6 million people lack water.

The final death toll is likely to be well above 10,000. Rescue and search and recovery teams are only now entering some areas hit by the tsunami. The work of searching through the vast area of debris and destruction is difficult and time consuming.

Six days after the natural catastrophe struck, the survivors are bearing up to extremely difficult conditions. They have lived without light or heat, an ordeal made worse by the plunging temperatures, snow and hail storms reported in the past day. The national broadcaster NHK reportedly advised people to wrap themselves in cling film and newspaper to keep warm.

Because there is no running water, no showers are available, and many people remain in the clothes they were wearing when the earthquake struck. Communications are also down, though limited phone services have been provided to some people in the shelters and others have been able to charge their mobile phones using generator-powered points in public places.

The sick and the elderly are especially vulnerable to disease and health problems caused by the cold weather and lack of food. Moreover, many survivors lost their prescribed medicines in the earthquake and tsunami. Children are also at risk. The Save the Children charity reported that one-fifth of the displaced population were children and warned that many would have been orphaned.

Food and fuel shortages are spreading beyond the worst affected areas, as more people are panic buying because of the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

The Guardian noted: “Supermarkets and convenience stores across the north-east first sold out of jerry cans as queues lengthened at petrol stations, then they ran out of batteries when the government announced plans for rolling power cuts. In the panic buying that followed the first explosion at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, shops imposed a ‘two bakery items per person’ limit. Many shops have also run out of blankets, sanitary pads, nappies, toilet paper, instant noodles, torches, and anything else that people preparing for disaster might need.”

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