The Modern Tokyo Times

International news and neglected issues

Tsunami of March 11: elderly deaths extremely high and history ignored

Tsunami of March 11: elderly deaths extremely high and history ignored

James Jomo and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Japanese police released vital information about the devastating tsunami which hit Japan. This applies to how deaths occurred and the age group which suffered the most. Therefore, this information needs to be studied carefully and adequate measures are needed in order to protect the vulnerable.

Of course, no nation knows when and where a natural disaster will strike but fault-lines and vulnerable areas which are prone to natural disasters are known.  Therefore, certain precautions can be taken in order to reduce the death toll when a major earthquake and tsunami strikes.

It is apparent from the findings by the Japanese police that elderly citizens who reside in danger zones need to be helped to a much higher degree. If no action is taken then history will merely repeat itself in the future and issues related to costs must not enter the equation.  Local governments and the central government must work together alongside appropriate agencies in order to protect and help the most vulnerable who reside in danger zones.

The Japanese police confirmed that over 90 per cent of people died from drowning after the violent earthquake unleashed a destructive and deadly tsunami.  This figure was expected because images of the tsunami show the speed and destructiveness of nature. 

One statistic which is of great significance is that the greatest loss of life occurred to people who were aged over 60 years old. People in this bracket group accounted for 65% off all deaths related to the tsunami. Therefore, when the brutal 9.0-magnitude earthquake unleashed the deadly tsunami, it is clear that many elderly were unable to escape for a variety of reasons.

Obviously, most people presumed that drowning would be the main cause of death and that elderly citizens would suffer the most.  However, the report by the Japanese police that the elderly accounted for 65% of all deaths is shocking and extremely high.

In a previous article by Modern Tokyo Times it was stated that “In the future, certain measures could be taken from these findings and this applies to greater attention being given to the most vulnerable.  This could apply to early back-up systems being enhanced; emergency transport located in special areas of high density areas where the elderly reside; zones of housing to be further away from the coastline for elderly residents and people who are disabled.”

“It is important not to become alarmist because the chance of another major tsunami like the March 11 tsunami is remote in Japan in the near future (but not in the distant future).  After all, you do not get many earthquakes with the magnitude of 9 and even when you do get major earthquakes which are high on the scale; then other factors have to come into play and so many other variables, in order for the same destructive accident to happen in the future.”

History proved to be the saving grace for the hamlet called Aneyoshi because they heeded the advice of old stone tablets which warned about past tsunamis. Therefore, the people of Aneyoshi planned the infrastructure of this small hamlet based on past history and because of this they escaped the ravages of the tsunami.

One stone tablet comments that “High dwellings are the peace and harmony of our descendants” and another says “Remember the calamity of the great tsunamis.”

Ancestors knew full well the power of tsunamis and how you need to understand the destructiveness of nature. Therefore, another stone tablet states that “If an earthquake comes, beware of tsunamis.” However, this ancient advice by caring ancestors was ignored by many and the old stone tablets, some which date back to 600 years ago, should have been heeded.

However, it is reported that many Japanese people went back to their homes after the violent earthquake struck.  This decision had tragic repercussions because the tsunami swept many people away who had gone back home to collect their belongings or because they believed that the danger was over.

Yotaru Hatamura is a scholar with great knowledge about the old stone tablets and he also believes that history was ignored.  Yotaru Hatamura comments that “People had this crucial knowledge, but they were busy with their lives and jobs, and many forgot.”

In the past article by Modern Tokyo Times it was also stated that “Turning back to the high rate of elderly people dying because of the tsunami then it is clear that other factors are involved.  This applies to the younger generation being at work and many will have been out of town because of this reason.  Also, a higher number of younger people will have had their own transport and obviously the mobility factor is a clear advantage and some elderly people will have been alone.”

Also, in many villages and towns in northeastern Japan the elderly population is sizeable (the same applies to other areas in the countryside) because many of the younger generation have migrated to big cities in Japan like Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya. 

“In the video below this article you can witness the power of the tsunami and during the last minute it becomes apparent that elderly people were caught because of lack of mobility.  Also, you also see a man trying to help a disabled person and the video is harrowing near the end.”

“The last few minutes on this earth for tens of thousands of people was based on fear, shock, and complete disbelief. They could feel and witness the mayhem around them before being engulfed by the tsunami.”

Therefore, it is vital that the data is fully scrutinized in order to introduce genuine safety mechanisms which will enable more people to survive when another potent tsunami strikes Japan.

Video evidence and police statistics show just what went wrong and specialists must study and formulate counter-measures.  The residents of Aneyoshi learnt from history and now it is vital that local governments and the central government learns from the deadly tsunami which hit Japan on March 11.

(This video is harrowing in the last few minutes – but it does show how the elderly and disabled were victims of the tsunami)   – Please visit


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