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The Tears of Sanriku (三陸の涙). The Death Toll for the Great East Japan Earthquake Nuclear Disaster

by Jim Bartel

The Tears of Sanriku (三陸の涙)


The Japanese government is many years away from declaring a final death toll for the Great East Japan Earthquake (東日本大震災), which occurred on March 11, 2011. More bodies continue to be found, but the recovery effort is hampered by lack of resources (especially in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi) and difficult conditions in other coastal localities. The statistics (based on the home pages of Japanese prefectures as of October 26, 2011) that I have obtained for extremely hard hit Coastal Regions (North to South) and Inland Regions do not agree with National Police Agency (NPA) statistics. However, the NPA (警察庁) has already acknowledged that their statistics for Fukushima Prefecture do not reflect many bodies left on the ground and unrecovered due to nuclear radiation. Virtually none of the estimated 376,000 tons of rubble in six towns (Namie-machi, Futaba-machi, Okuma-machi, Tomioka-machi, Naraha-machi, and Hirono-machi) in the Off Limits Zone has been cleared to date.


The collection and reporting of statistics by prefecture has actually served to obscure many important facts, and the statistics presented by the NPA simply do not conform to reality. The NPA statistics (deaths, missing, injuries, and property damage) appear to be the most complete and reliable for Ibaraki Prefecture. However, NPA statistics for Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima Prefectures remain incomplete and unreliable because the NPA is dependent on other government ministries and agencies for almost all of their statistics. The multiple, non-standardized, and unconsolidated lists of evacuees, which total over 700 pages for Iwate Prefecture alone, are completely disorganized and have substantially hindered searches for missing persons. The daily reports of Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima Prefectures present information using different methods and formats, and there are no discernible standards for reporting by the prefectures.


The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (経済産業省) failed to intervene with Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) until Fukushima Dai-Ichi (福島第一原発) was in full meltdown, and cold shutdown of that plant will not occur until January 2012 at the earliest. At least 150 subcontractors who worked at Fukushima Dai-Ichi cannot be located (or contacted). While the exposure of these workers might be limited, this is further evidence that TEPCO does not properly maintain records and remains out of control. Some hard-line, no-nonsense administrators need to be brought in to restore order. Despite an extremely long history of earthquakes off the coast of Miyagi, there were few contingency plans and the central government was unprepared for a disaster of this magnitude. The Japanese government has been making it up as they go along in a reactive mode. There has been no integrated, coordinated response to this disaster as public officials work in a vacuum without competent leadership and effective direction. So many ministries, agencies, and levels of government have overlapping responsibilities as part of the government’s response to the disaster that proper coordination was impossible without prior planning. The Japanese government’s response to this disaster is a case study of poor judgment, lack of planning and preparation, and critical errors that should be carefully studied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) because similar scenarios can be envisioned for Hawaii, Alaska, and the West Coast of the United States. Many localities had only 30-40 minutes of advance warning before the tsunami (津波) breached 30-foot seawalls and inundated the Eastern coast of Honshu. However, the United States is even less prepared for a huge earthquake and tsunami than Japan.


The NPA has not reported statistics on the number of Confirmed Missing, Declared Dead. The Ministry of Justice (法務省) has jurisdiction over that final adjudicative procedure. A simplified, expedited procedure for a Declaration of Death (死亡) without a body was adopted so that the proceeds of life insurance policies, bank accounts, and survivor benefits could be paid to survivors 90 days after March 11, 2011. Nevertheless, the procedures to accept these filings were not in place until June 25, 2011. According to the Ministry of Justice, at least 3,492 Declarations of Death had been filed as of September 30, 2011. However, many citizens have not been able to file Missing Person Reports, Declarations of Death, and/or Property Damage Reports due to the lack of any functioning local government entities in many coastal areas of Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima Prefectures. Nevertheless, it is expected that a Declaration of Death will eventually be filed for almost every reported missing person because receipt of substantial funds is tied to that procedure. Filings of workers accident compensation (労働者災害補償) claims have also ballooned to nearly 1,800 claims because the overall compensation for a work-related death is much higher than a regular death benefit and/or survivor’s pension. The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (厚生労働省) expects about 4,000 claims for workers accident compensation.

The above text is a summary of a detailed study conducted by the author

View the original article at Global Research

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