Apr 4, 2011
It’s now estimated that more than 21,000 people died or are missing due to the March 11th earthquake and tsunami. More than 500,000 people who survived still find themselves in a precarious condition that is worsening every day in certain remote zones.
Some villages had to wait six days to see help arrive. The survivors could count only on themselves, sharing their provisions, trying to resist the cold, despite the shortage of fuel and even shelter. Two weeks after the tsunami, tens of thousands of survivors still couldn’t get hot meals or necessary medicine.
In some areas, there were cases of diarrhea, stress and exhaustion. The survivors had only the clothes they wore when the catastrophe hit. It was impossible to bathe.
People living in the area around the damaged nuclear power facility at Fukushima had to find their own way out of the area threatened with radioactive fall-out. Nothing was organized to evacuate them. There wasn’t even gasoline. A helpless family couldn’t flee the stricken zone unless it called on friends in Tokyo to come pick them up.
Even in Tokyo, people could count only on the solidarity of their fellow citizens and on charitable organizations to provide a little food and comfort. Crammed into gyms, sleeping on mats, they don’t know what’s going to happen. They have lost everything, their homes, their jobs, their income. Some are enrolling in a lottery for 600 vacant houses, but there are thousands more refugees. It may have started as a “natural” disaster, but it’s becoming a “social” disaster, which always hits the poorest people hardest.
Hundreds marched in Tokyo to protest against the slow response of the government to look after the survivors still awaiting aid in the stricken zone in northeastern Japan. The weather conditions, the rain, ice, snow and destruction of roads and bridges hindered transport of food and materials. But that doesn’t explain what happened. In Iwate, one of the northern prefectures, where 46,000 people were still in shelters on March 21st, there was no gasoline to transport necessities.
It is possible for the government of a country as developed as Japan to requisition the gasoline and transportation needed to aid the stricken population.
Only three days after the catastrophe, the Japanese government injected 475 billion dollars into the financial circuits to “reassure” the markets and “prevent the deterioration of the business climate.” So it is clearly a question of political choices whether to see that those who survived a natural catastrophe don’t pay with their lives or their health due to social disorganization.
Clearly, the fate of the survivors isn’t the priority in a society more worried about the interests of the bankers than those of the population.