June 28, 2013
The Press’ interest in Fukushima accident evacuees overlooks something. What if the F. Daiichi station would have survived the tsunami unscathed like the other two stations along the Tohoku coastline – Fukushima Daiini and Onagawa? The wave of water on 3/11/11 certainly pounded Fukushima as severely as southern Miyagi Prefecture. There must have been tens of thousands of Fukushima residents fleeing the Pacific coast to escape the black water surge, long before the nuclear accident transpired. It is most likely that thousands of Fukushima residents lost everything to the raging torrent, sweeping away everything in its path.
AON Benfield reports that more than 1,600 Fukushima residents lost their lives to the tsunami, with nearly 250 listed as missing and presumed dead. But, how many of Fukushima’s tsunami victims were made homeless by the giant wave? Across the Tohoku region, some 20,000 were killed by the tsunami and more than 300,000 were made permanently homeless. If we use these numbers as a ratio, we might speculate that some 20,000 Fukushima citizens may have lost their homes and property to the tsunami, long before the nuclear accident transpired. The government’s exclusion zone covers 60 kilometers along the 120km Fukushima coast. Thus, we might assume that roughly half of the tsunami-obliterated Fukushima homes lay within the exclusion zone. If correct, this means about 10,000 of the Fukushima evacuees are tsunami victims and would be refugees even if the nuclear accident never happened.
Which brings up a disturbing question…Why has nothing been reported about the tsunami-only Fukushima refugees? I’ve been scanning the major Japanese news outlets every day for more than two years, and there has been nothing about the Fukushima refugees who are also tsunami-only victims. I’ve scoured the search engines with every key phrase I can conjure in the hope that maybe I have missed something. Sadly, I must admit defeat and conclude that none of Japan’s news media has made the effort to cover this compelling story.
Coverage of Fukushima refugees appeals to Japan’s widespread fear of radiation and the common misconceptions relative to reactors and bombs. It is regularly reported that some of the Fukushima refugees may never go home due to radiation levels. How about the Fukushima refugees who will never go home because the tsunami swept their domiciles away? There is little doubt that hundreds of Futaba and Okuma residents nearest F. Daiichi might be permanently estranged from their still-intact homes due to radiation levels. But it pales in comparison to Fukushima’s thousands who lost everything to the tsunami will never go home. In an ideal world, this distinction should be made by the Press, but there seems to be no desire on the part of the news media to do this.
I assume that the tsunami refugees from the exclusion zone are receiving the same dispensation as the accident-only crowd. If they are, their condition must be considerably better than the other tsunami-only refugees in Tohoku. Why? Two reasons immediately come to mind. First, each Fukushima refugee family has been awarded $10,000 in “evacuation compensation” that 250,000 tsunami-only victims will never see. And second, the Fukushima refugees receive about $1,500 per month to help with displaced-living expenses. At the same time, some of the tsunami-only refugees get $400-650 per month. Many, if not most, of Tohoku’s tsunami-only refugees get nothing! I am not advocating that Tepco should reduce the payouts to Fukushima’s tsunami-only victims…they are unquestionably the most-deserving of all Fukushima refugees because, after all, they lost everything. But I am advocating that the Tokyo government should subsidize ALL of Tohoku’s tsunami refugees equal to what the Fukushima tsunami refugees from the exclusion zone are receiving.
Why hasn’t the Japanese Press even made a perfunctory effort to cover this? They must know that such a story is “out there” and begs coverage. They can’t be unaware enough to have missed it. Are they afraid that such a story could somehow diminish public interest in their habitual practice of Fukushima scare-mongering? I can think of no answer to that question other than a resounding “Yes”.
The final question I ask is thus…what’s more important? The plight of people estranged from their homes due to the hypothetical, unproven risks of low level radiation exposure, or those who actually lost everything to the tsunami of 3/11/11? It seems the Japanese Press believes the hypothetical is infinitely more newsworthy than the actual.
Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami Event Recap Report; AON Benfield; August 30, 2011 http://thoughtleadership.aonbenfield.com/Documents/201108_ab_if_japan_eq_tsunami_event_recap.pdf