In natural disasters, the elderly and the sick are among the the most vulnerable.
After surviving one horrifying experience--Friday's magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami--they are dying of another: a lack of access to basic human needs, including medical services, food and shelter.
At least 27 former hospital patients and elderly people had died as of Thursday morning as they were evacuated or while staying at a hospital or shelters in Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate prefectures, The Asahi Shimbun has found.
Of these, 18 are evacuees from communities affected by the continuing crisis at Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
The principal of a high school in Fukushima Prefecture, whose gym was turned into a makeshift shelter where some of the patients and the elderly were being housed, said the place just did not have sufficient equipment.
Although they placed six large heaters in the shelter, there were not enough blankets, nor were there any doctors or medical equipment.
"We did what we could, but with no professional care available, it was difficult because many of the patients were bed-ridden," the principal said.
Eight elderly inpatients died at Senen Hospital in Tagajo, Miyagi Prefecture.
When the quake hit, there were about 200 patients in the hospital, many of them elderly.
The hospital lost power after the tsunami flooded the first floor of the five-story building, leaving it with no heat in the biting cold.
Water and gas was also cut and telephone services went down.
Roads near the hospital were crumpled, blocking the delivery of relief assistance.
The hospital was filled with smell of fuel oil carried on the inrushing water.
Despite the hospital staff's efforts to transfer patients, only five were accepted at other hospitals. Many hospitals declined, saying they were already at capacity.
About 100 patients were checked out after their families came to Senen Hospital to get them.
Still, 95 patients are left behind.
While some of the power was restored after a generator brought online Tuesday, the hospital is in no shape to provide comprehensive care.
The eight people who died ranged in age from 81 to 97.
The hospital said that the patients were weak in the first place, but being left in the cold and a lack of other essential needs contributed to their deaths.
"They could have lived if no quake and tsunami had struck," said the operator of the hospital. "With a drop in temperature, we cannot discount the impact (of the lack of electricity)."
In Rikuzentakata in Iwate Prefecture, a woman in her 80s died at a shelter.
A municipal official said that although she had a chronic disease, her condition sharply deteriorated without enough food and drink available at the shelter.
Satoshi Furuya, a doctor at Fujisawa Municipal Hospital in Fujisawa in Iwate Prefecture, said that the condition of some elderly patients is worsening sharply due to lack of medicine. The hospital is leading relief efforts for survivors.
"Flu is spreading and we have no medicine for high blood pressure and other illnesses," Furuya said. "Some patients are developing post-traumatic stress disorder."
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