FUKUSHIMA Lives on the Line

2With the passage of a year, the Great East Japan Earthquake has caused the death or disappearance of over 20,000 people, over 1,000 of whom have died from reasons related to the disaster. Over 16,000 people in Fukushima are still forced to live as evacuees as a result of the nuclear accident, and 50,000 people have moved out of the prefecture. Because of the evacuation, deaths of the elderly in special care facilities are twice that of an average year, and deaths of those admitted to the facility within a 30 kilometer radius are three times that of the same period the previous year. The number of suicides has suddenly increased, as well as the number of elderly patients and patients with insomnia.The state of medical treatment at the nuclear evacuation zones is itself a disaster. An increase of approximately 150 members in the school faculty has managed to avert the collapse of local medical infrastructure through the “Fukushima method,” but now as physicians are continually leaving, we have reached a crisis. The calamity wrought by the nuclear disaster is truly a test of fire.On-the-ground efforts of the Self-Defense Forces, police, firefighters, public officials, medical professionals, and others in the face of this unprecedented disaster were, in a word, spectacular; however, the lessons learned were also plenty. First, the inadequacies of our infrastructure to address complex disasters were brought to the fore. Second, the lack of education among citizens and medical professionals about radiation became clear. Third, our chain-of-command system turned to chaos. Sometimes we tend to think that taking the lead can make waves, but such tendencies to avoid making waves have done us an ill turn this time. Fourth, our quick response systems suffered from a lack of personnel. Fifth, the distinction between “peace of mind” and “safety” was not clear, and thus caused confusion. “Peace of mind” is an emotional and financial issue. “Safety” is an issue of science. We did not recognize the inevitable fact that a peaceful world with One Year after the DisasterA Message from Fukushima