Health complications stemming from Japan’s 2011 tsunami have killed more people in one Japanese region than the disaster itself, the local authority reported earlier in the week.
Data compiled by officials and police show that almost three years after the huge waves smashed ashore, 1,656 people living in Fukushima prefecture have died from stress and other illnesses related to the disaster, compared with 1,607 who were killed in the initial calamity.
“The biggest problem is the fact that people have been living in temporary conditions for so long,” Hiroyuki Harada, a Fukushima official dealing with victim assistance, told AFP.
“People have gone through dramatic changes of their environment. As a result, people who would not have died are dying,” he said.
Along with the prefectures of Miyagi and Iwate, Fukushima was one of the worst hit parts of Japan when a huge 9.0 undersea earthquake sent a wall of water barrelling into the coast.
The waves swept more than 18,000 people to their deaths across the country, and destroyed entire communities.
“This is different from normal, natural disasters. People who live in shelters are forced to live there, away from their home towns and villages, where they lived for a long time,” Harada said.
“They are forced to live the kinds of lives they are not used to.”
According to the Reconstruction Agency, up until September around 90 percent of those dying from indirect causes were 66 or older, Kyodo News reported.
While both Iwate and Miyagi suffered higher tolls in the initial disaster, the number of indirect deaths in both prefectures is lower than in Fukushima, at 434 and 879 respectively.
The small Fukushima city of Minamisoma has been the worst-hit, with 447 deaths indirectly blamed on the disaster, followed by 317 in Namie town and 225 in Tomioka town.
Parts of Minamisoma and all of Namie and Tomioka remain off-limits because of still-elevated radiation levels.
Read more at Fukushima fallout: stress, health complications kill more people than initial disaster