Japan: post-disaster water and sanitation problems


Survivors at a shelter in Rikuzentakata, Iwate prefecture, in north-east Japan, after the earthquake and tsunami struck. Photo: Reuters

Millions of people in Japan’s devastated northeast are without water, food or heating in near-freezing temperatures. Access to water in the tsunami affected areas is a concern due to water contamination and salination. An estimated 1.4 million households in 14 Prefectures have no access to water, according to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.

Four days after the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan on 11 March 2001, some 550,000 people have been evacuated and at least 10,000 are expected to have died.

“People are exhausted both physically and mentally,” said Yasunobu Sasaki, the principal of a school converted into a shelter in Rikuzentakata, a nearly flattened village of 24,500 people in far-northern Iwate prefecture.

There was not enough food for three meals a day and no heating, he said. Sanitation was a also problem. His shelter has fewer than 10 temporary toilets and several makeshift wooden toilets with a hole in the ground.

“That’s not enough for the around 1,800 people here,” he said.

The Turkish Red Crescent, Switzerland Humanitarian Aid Response Team, Canadian Medical Assistance Team, Save the Children and Plan International are providing technical assistance.

Source: Yoko Kubota, Reuters / Alertnet, 14 Mar 2011 ; OCHA Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Situation Report No. 3, 14 Mar 2011

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