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Prolonged Living as a Refugee from the Area Around a Stricken Nuclear Power Plant Increases the Risk of Death

  • Reiichiro Tanaka (a1)

Although it is well known that the Great East Japan Earthquake (March 11, 2011) resulted in a large number of disaster-related deaths, it is not common knowledge that the number of disaster-related deaths continues to increase, even four years after the earthquake, in Fukushima Prefecture, where the nuclear power plant accident occurred. There has been a lack of a minute and critical analysis for the causes for this continuous increase. In this report, the causes for the increase in disaster-related deaths in Fukushima Prefecture were analyzed by aggregating and comparing multiple data released by public organizations (the Reconstruction Agency, the National Police Agency, and Fukushima Prefecture), which may also have implications for developing response strategies to other disasters. The disaster-related death rate, the dead or missing rate, and the refugee rate (the number of disaster-related deaths, dead or missing persons, and refugees per 1,000 people) in each prefecture in stricken areas, and also each city, county, town, and village in Fukushima Prefecture, were calculated and compared with each other. The populations which were used for the calculation of each death rate in the area were based on the number of dead victims who had lived in the area when the earthquake occurred, regardless of where they were at the time of their death. The disaster-related death rate was higher than the dead or missing rate in the area around a stricken nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture. These areas coincide exactly with the Areas under Evacuation Orders because of unsafe radiation levels. The external and internal radiation doses of most of the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake have appeared not to be so high to harm their health, until now. The psychological stress associated with being displaced from one’s home for a long time with an uncertain future may be the cause for these disaster-related deaths. There is an urgent need to recognize refugees’ stressful situations, which could even cause death, and to provide them with high-quality medical treatment, including care for their long-term mental health.

Tanaka R . Prolonged Living as a Refugee from the Area Around a Stricken Nuclear Power Plant Increases the Risk of Death. Prehosp Disaster Med. 2015;30(4):1-6.

Corresponding author
Correspondence: Reiichiro Tanaka, MD Department of Emergency Medicine Institute of Neuoscience and Orthopedics Okayama Kyokuto Hospital567-1 Kurata Naka-ku, Okayama 703-8265, Okayama, Japan E-mail:
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R Tanaka . Prolonged living as a refugee from the area around a stricken nuclear power plant increases the risk of death. Prehosp Disaster Med. 2015;30(4):1-6.

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Prehospital and Disaster Medicine
  • ISSN: 1049-023X
  • EISSN: 1945-1938
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