Short Takes: Majority of Disaster Victims Elderly

03/27/2011
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TOKYO (majirox news) – Most victims of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami on March 11 were elderly. According to the Yomiuri Shimbun, a major newspaper, of 2,853 victims in five prefectures, as of March 23, 65.1 percent were 60 years old or older.

The calculations were based on the number of casualties identified by Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki and Chiba prefectural police headquarters. About 46.1 percent of the causalities were 70 years old or older.

After the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995, a survey taken by Hyogo prefecture found that of 6,402 victims in the prefecture those aged 70 accounted for 39.3 percent. About 6,34 died from the earthquake.

Kansai University Prof. Yoshiaki Kawat, an expert on disaster management, told the Yomiuri that elderly people, despite being healthy, often can’t escape natural disaster because they can’t move as fast as younger people.

“The central and local governments should review the way they evacuate the elderly and impress on young people that they should help out in an emergency,” he said.

Freezing weather and shortages of medicine and food are having an impact on vulnerable people already shocked by the disaster. Some elderly patients died after being moved from a hospital near the Fukushima nuclear plant to a temporary shelter in a school gym. Two died on the way there, according to local government official Chuei Inamura.

About 4.1 percent of the victims were 9 years of age or younger, 3.2 percent were 10 to 19, 3.2 percent were in their 20s, 6 percent in their 30s, 6.9 percent in their 40s and 11.6 percent were in their 50s.

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