The world continues to worry about the perilous state of the Fukushima nuclear reactor, but the human toll is quickly – and quietly – rising in Japan as well.
The earthquake and subsequent tsunami left millions homeless and officials fear tens of thousands are dead.
Patrick Fuller, a spokesman for the International Federation of the Red Cross, appeared on television networks to add a human element to the horrifying damage.
“It’s a scene no one should have to witness,” he told CNN.
“I just returned from a town on the coast called Otsuchi. It’s population of about 17,000 is now about half of that. Many, many people died in this place.”
Fuller explained that firefighters were battling blazes in the nearby pine woods. Gas explosions started the fires.
“It really is a scene from hell,” the spokesman said. “We really feel for the survivors, many of whom are camped out in these temporary shelters.”
It’s going to be a long time before life returns to any semblance of normality, especially for the families who have lost so much.
“It’s very distressing. I was talking to an elderly couple today who had lost most of their family members – their son, their daughter, their grandchildren – and they had nothing. They were left with nothing. They had absolutely nothing. Their home was gone,” Fuller said. “So what do you do? What is the future for people like that? The government is going to provide prefabricated housing, I think, but they are going to need shelter for some time.”
“One of the most important things people need is really psychological counseling. They’ve undergone massive trauma.”
Fuller, shivering in the sub-zero temperatures during a Reuters interview, doesn’t believe any more survivors will be found in the area. Aid workers are shifting the scope of their efforts.
“I think the focus here is on retrieving as many dead bodies as they can find and going through the forensic process of trying to identify them,” he said.
Fuller speaks to Reuters
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