June 18, 2014

The Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of March 11, 2011, resulted in a huge number of deaths and a massive degree of property damage along the Fukushima Prefecture coastline. It is now known that 1609 people were killed and 207 remain missing, more than 21,000 buildings totally collapsed (or were completely swept away), more than 73,000 buildings were half-collapsed, and partial damage occurred at 160,313 specific locations. (1) While the numbers of dead and missing with Fukushima are considerable, they pale in comparison with Iwate (4,673 dead and 1,132 missing) and Miyagi (9,538 dead and 1,272 missing) Prefectures. Meanwhile the number of totally collapsed buildings in Iwate was actually a bit less than in Fukushima (19,107 vs. 21,252), and there were more than eleven times fewer half-collapsed buildings in Iwate (6,599 vs. 73,570). The partial property damage number for Iwate was nearly nine times lower for Iwate than Fukushima (18,601 vs. 160,313). Clearly, the amount of property damage done by the quake/tsunami of 2011 in Fukushima Prefecture was staggering, and can be understood as much worse than with Iwate.

This brings a number of questions to mind that cry out for answers…answers that ought to be readily available and given serious news media attention.

1 – How many of the oft-cited Fukushima evacuees would still be refugees if the nuke accident had never happened? The number of government-mandated evacuees has been documented as roughly 85,000. The total number of Fukushima refugees is often reported to be about 135,000. The 50,000 difference is often stated to be due to “voluntary” evacuees who fled due to fear of radiation. However, looking at the police statistics, I now seriously doubt the “voluntary”, radiation-fleeing concept applies to most of the non-mandated refugees in Fukushima. I now believe that the majority of them would still be refugees if the nuke accident had not happened!

The number that jumps out at me is the more than 21-thousand totally collapsed buildings in the prefecture. Let’s assume that 20,000 were homes with perhaps three persons per domicile. That’s some 60,000 refugees that lost everything to the temblor and/or tsunami wave. If it weren’t for the nuke accident, they would be no better-off than the approximately 200,000 refugees still languishing in relative inattention in Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures. How many of those 60,000 are included in the mandated evacuee statistics? How many of the 60,000 are included in the “voluntary” demographic? I offer that these two questions cry out for answers, and there is no reason why the relative numbers cannot be ascertained.

Those included in the “mandated” group are getting a bit more than $8,500 (USD) per month in compensation payments, and the total for the entire group now stands at $17 billion (June 13 numbers). (2) In addition, those owning homes are receiving similar individual disbursements in property compensation every month. In fact, the amount of property payouts stands at more than $17.5 billion (June 13, again). As for the “voluntary” evacuees, they have received a total of more than $3.5 billion. This should be compared to the Miyagi and Iwate refugees that get about a twentieth of the amount garnered by mandated Fukushima refugees, at between $400 and $600 per month. Property owners in Iwate and Miyagi can get $27,000 (lump sum) toward rebuilding, but this is merely 10% of the average construction cost of a new home.

2 – Would the current Fukushima evacuees be getting the considerable compensation they now receive if there were no nuclear accident?

Probably not! There is no reason to think they would be any better-off than the Miyagi/Iwate refugees of today.

3 – Should the Press distinguish between the number of Fukushima evacuees and those who would now be refugees if the nuke accident had not happened?

Of course!

However, there hasn’t been even the most meager attempt on the part of the news media, both inside and outside Japan, to make this important distinction. The same is true for the Tokyo and Fukushima governments. It is something that ought to happen, but I seriously doubt that it ever will happen. Here’s why. It would seriously diminish the “news value” of the so-called plight of the Fukushima refugees with the Press, perhaps more than the fact that the mandated evacuees are making a small fortune out of remaining estranged from their homes. Further, it would show that the governments are more concerned with making political hay out of the Fukushima accident evacuees, at the expense of the Iwate/Miyagi refugees. Let’s face it, one of the unreported “feel good” stories since 3/11/11 is that the tens of thousands of quake/tsunami refugees in Fukushima Prefecture are far, far better-off than their Iwate/Miyagi Prefecture peers.

4- One of the most widespread stories of the past six months is that the number of Fukushima Prefecture “related” deaths now exceeds the number killed by the quake/tsunami (1656 vs. 1609). (3) It should be noted that if the Fukushima quake/tsunami “missing” numbers are added to the toll, the total would be 1816. Why isn’t this point ever made by the news media? Plus, why isn’t anyone, including the Press and the Japanese government, distinguishing between the Fukushima accident-related deaths and the Fukushima quake/tsunami related deaths?

Let’s do some more speculating with some reasonable numbers. There have been 434 Iwate Prefecture “related” deaths since 3/11/11, with a complete or partial loss of 27,000 homes due to the tsunami and quake. Meanwhile, the “related” deaths in Fukushima Prefecture is now at 1,656, with a complete or partial loss of ~95,000 homes. Using some simple math we find the rate of “related” deaths per home loss for both Fukushima and Iwate Prefectures is roughly the same! (Iwate=0.16 vs. Fukushima=0,017).

Without distinguishing between Fukushima’s nuke accident “related” deaths and those that would have happened if the nuke crisis had never happened, the Japanese government and the Press are doing the world a great disservice. In fact, this may well be the most severe instance of cover-up. The Press is covering this up because it would make the nuke accident aftermath seem much, much less than has been promoted to date. The governments are covering it up because Tokyo can make Tepco pay huge sums to the Fukushima evacuees while a relative pittance goes to the Iwate/Miyagi refugees, and make it seem reasonable. In actuality, Tokyo believes Tepco will reimburse them for every yen now being loaned for evacuee compensation. Further, the cover-up masks the fact that Tokyo is literally helpless in giving equivalent help to Tsunami refugees. Finally, if these questions are addressed by the Fukushima government, they run the risk of having Tokyo cut off the money flow to the prefecture for reconstruction.

References –

1. Damage Situation and Police Countermeasures associated with 2011Tohoku district – off the Pacific Ocean Earthquake; National Police Agency of Japan; June 10,2014 http://www.npa.go.jp/archive/keibi/biki/higaijokyo_e.pdf

2 – Fukushima Evacuee Compensation Payments; http://www.hiroshimasyndrome.com/fukushima-evacuee-compensation-payments.html

3 – Fukushima’s appalling death toll; The Japan Times; March 1, 2014. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2014/03/01/editorials/fukushimas-appalling-death-toll/#.U59aZKNOUdV