The process of evacuation from volcanic Miyake Island and the glare of the national spotlight is taking its toll on some evacuees.
As of Thursday, more than 320 Miyake residents at an evacuation shelter in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward had taken advantage of the free medical checkups and counseling services provided by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
At the National Olympics Memorial Youth Center, the evacuation headquarters, around 10 medical professionals, including two doctors and five nurses, are providing health checks and counseling services to evacuees.
Masato Kosugi, a public health nurse, said many of the residents she has seen have high blood pressure and suffer other symptoms of stress such as insomnia. Of the 320, 100 complained about physical problems, while 11 spoke of mental fatigue, according to metro government officials.
Kazuhiro Ouchi, 59, was told that his blood pressure, which usually hovers around 130, had jumped to 186.
“Uncertainty about the future, this group life (at the emergency shelter) and the press always chasing after us have apparently inflicted a lot of stress on us,” he said.
Kosugi, the public health nurse, said that the stress and illnesses the evacuees are now experiencing may haunt them even after they move into their own private temporary residences.
“A sense of isolation caused by the loss of their community may spread among the evacuees, making their lives even more stressful,” she said.
“It is indispensable for their mental and physical well being that we help them establish information and communication networks.”
As an other means of easing their situation, teachers and students at a Tokyo chiropractic school are offering free chiropractic services at the evacuation shelter.
“Many people I saw had stiffness in their shoulders and backs, which may be caused by stress,” said Hirofumi Sato, a chiropractor. “Also, many complained of sore muscles from cleaning up volcano ashes while they were on the island.”
A total of 591 Miyake residents have used the emergency shelter, with more than half remaining there while they await public housing. As of Thursday, 210 had moved into an apartment provided by the local government. All the remaining residents are scheduled to enter public housing facilities by Saturday.
A total of 490 households have already secured public housing facilities.
The metropolitan government has so far secured 1,076 public housing units, and an additional 696 have been provided by other municipalities and the Housing and Urban Development Corp. Rent on the units will be waived for up to six months.
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