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

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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs