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Solitary deaths reach 188 in Tohoku temporary housing

Kyodo

The number of people who died alone in temporary housing in three prefectures hit hard by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disasters reached 188 at the end of last year, a Kyodo News tally showed, highlighting the difficulty for authorities to look after elderly survivors.

The so-called solitary deaths only numbered 16 in 2011 for the prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima, according to the tally based on police data.

The number has been increasing annually, and authorities fear it may continue to rise. They say it has become harder to keep watch on everyone in temporary housing as more units are steadily vacated.

According to the date, more than twice as many men than women died alone in temporary housing in Iwate and Miyagi, and four times as many in Fukushima.

As of January, about 59,000 people were living in the prefabricated makeshift housing complexes. Roughly 28,700 makeshift shelters were occupied, almost half the peak, as many evacuees have already left them to live in new homes or public housing.

Because the definition of solitary deaths has not been clarified, Kyodo News asked police in the three prefectures about the number of people who lived alone in prefabricated temporary housing and were found dead. They did not disclose whether the figures include suicides, but the Iwate Prefectural Police said suicides are excluded from its figure for 2015.

Kyodo News also polled 300 survivors in the prefectures late last year and found that many people felt that community ties in public housing were not as strong as what they experienced while they stayed in makeshift housing.