News / Asia

Deadly Cold Weather Strikes Tsunami-Hit Hospital

Nurse Tomimo Goto prepares medicine in the darkened ward of the Sen-en Hospital in Tagajo, Japan
Nurse Tomimo Goto prepares medicine in the darkened ward of the Sen-en Hospital in Tagajo, Japan

Multimedia

TEXT SIZE - +
Henry Ridgwell

For the survivors of the tsunami that struck Japan earlier this month, the daily struggle to keep warm and find enough food continues.  In the town of Tagajo on the coast of Miyagi Prefecture, the Sen-en Hospital has been without electricity, gas or running water for nearly two weeks. There are shortages of basic medicines.  Several elderly patients have died because of the freezing temperatures in the wards.

A 90-year-old patient at the Tagajo Sen-en hospital screams out that she is cold. The temperature inside is a few degrees above freezing. On some nights, it drops below zero Celsius. There is no electricity, gas or water.

The cold and the shortage of medicine have claimed the lives of 12 elderly patients since the waves roared through the lower floors of this hospital.

Deputy Head Doctor Yoichi Hashiguchi tucks more blankets around one of the 50 patients still under his care. He says conditions are very tough.

“Most of the patients here have had strokes or cerebral infections, so they can’t move by themselves,” he says. “The thing we need the most is the special milk, which we feed them through tubes. We don’t have any of that so they aren’t getting enough nutrition.”

In the darkened wards the nurses do the best they can. They salvaged what medicines they could from the wreckage.

They’ve begun heating bottles of water on a makeshift propane stove, to use as hot water bottles.

There’s no laundry service and while there are enough clean bedclothes to last a few days, dirty sheets are starting to pile up.

“It’s really cold and I can’t do much for my patients so I get really depressed when I get home," says Tomomi Goto, who is one of the nurses working 18-hour shifts. "Today I felt like I couldn’t do anything, it makes me so sad,” she adds. “But if I look miserable at work the patients will get more worried. So I always try to smile.”

The floor of the nurses' station is covered with Japanese futons, thin mattresses on which the nurses grab a few hours sleep.

With their cars in the hospital grounds wrecked by the tsunami and a gasoline shortage gripping the area, they can’t easily get home.  So they stay here refusing to abandon their patients.

Dr. Satsuki Ishigaki says the conditions are starting to take a toll on the staff. “All the doctors and patients also suffered in the tsunami.  Many lost their houses too. So everyone is very stressed and it’s bad for our health too,” she said.

A nationwide gasoline shortage has delayed the delivery of vital supplies.

The army has installed a generator, which operates for two hours in the evening and is a vital window for the doctors to perform the most important tasks.

Then, darkness descends on the Sen-en hospital.

Dr. Hashiguchi uses a solar light, designed for use in the garden, to do his nighttime rounds. He says he and the other staff are just doing their jobs.

“I really want to get things back to normal as soon as possible and bring all the patients back here,” he says. “I want to reopen the hospital again and support the people of this town.”

About 200 patients were transferred to nearby hospitals. Those who remain are the most serious cases.

In normal times, Japan has a state-of the art health service; its people live the longest in the world.  But here in Miyagi prefecture, normality has gone.

The tsunami itself took tens of thousands of lives. It has left behind a deadly legacy for the most vulnerable of those who survived.

You May Like

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid