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

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake 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.
Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that was eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports on how one band is bringing Yiddish tango to Los Angeles.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid