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The Undoing and Helplessness of the Stricken Populations is Amplified

Translated Friday 18 March 2011, by Henry Crapo and reviewed by Henry Crapo

In the coastal regions of northeastern Japan, deprived of electricity, of communication, and struck by a cold wave, aid anxiously awaited for the population arrives drip by drip.

The some 600,000 refugees from the Sendai region, that most heavily damaged by the earthquake and tsunami, see their calvary accentuated as each hour passes.

Assigned to more that 1200 rudimentary camps, they live in extreme privation, and their situation scarcely improves from day to day, given the chaos surrounding them: the electricity no longer works, telecommunications are random, roads and rail lines are blocked or unusable, and conditions of hygiene are more than precarious, there where hundreds of persons are crowded into gymnasiums or under tents, without heat and sanitary facilities.

As an indication of the depths of helplessness of an entire people, the Emperor Akihito yesterday judged it necessary to make a public statement. This is the first time since 1989, the date of his accession to the throne. "I hope sincerely that we will be able to prevent the situation from worsening". A televised declaration, clearly kept to a strict minimum, but of historic significance, underlined by all the Japanese media, in that the emperor is not supposed to preoccupy himself with the earthly contingencies of his subjects.

The rescue workers who continue to try to locate survivors beneath the wreckage of cities make no effort to conceal their helplessness. Throughout the affected zone, men and women find only dead bodies, which they wrap in blankets, on a white and ravaged landscape. The strong odors of dead bodies and sea water make this search very difficult, confides Yin Guanghui, a member of the Chinese rescue team in the city of Ofunato, to the Agence France Press.

In Rikuzenkata, where 80% of the city was flooded, the survivors have lost everything. Provision of nutrition remains extremely complicated. From this, a terrible rationing. Same thing for water that arrives by truck. The rescue teams distribute 3 litres per person.

The Japanese public television NHK gives advice as to how to keep warm: cover yourself with newspaper and food-wrapping plastic, and use candles to boil water.

Patrick Fuller, officer of the Red Cross for the Sendai region, explains to an envoy of the Agence France Press that the refugees, often very old, "are in need of regular medication and first aid." "But many of their problems," he quickly adds, "are psychological, due to the stress."

In Fukushima, near the damaged power generation plant, "the worries and anger of the people are at a high pitch", announced yesterday Yukei Sato, the governor of the region. "The people have an absolute need of fuel to warm themselves. But the provisions, products of first necessity, and motor fuels, do not arrive."

To the distress of the refugees is added that of some 200,000 inhabitants whose lodgings were "preserved" until now, but who are now obliged to prepare an evacuation, rendered necessary by the increased levels of radioactivity.

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