SENDAI – Among those affected by the series of quakes that hit Miyagi Prefecture on Saturday were many elderly residents of rural farming communities, many of whom live alone in sparsely populated areas.
The towns in northern Miyagi where the damage from Saturday’s quakes was severest are mainly farming communities, with one-fourth of local residents aged 65 or older.
Toshiko Suzuki, 75, has lived alone in her house in Nango since her husband died 11 years ago. She has no children.
Suzuki has no proximate neighbors upon whom she can rely, and the weekend quakes forced her to evacuate to a local elementary school.
The kitchen in her house was severely damaged in the quakes. “I will have to spend the night at the shelter and come to the house during the day to clean up the rubble bit by bit,” Suzuki said with a sigh.
Eoko Suzuki, 78, also lives alone in the neighboring town of Kanan. She suffers from diabetes, and welfare workers visit her house three times a week.
“My house is old, and I’m too scared to go back there,” Suzuki mumbled from a futon on the floor of a local school gym. “I can’t possibly clean up the mess. Maybe it’s not a good thing to live long.”
Local welfare centers for seniors were also damaged in the quakes.
About 10 people were injured when ceiling tiles in the dining room of the Satsuki-en facility in the town of Yamoto fell on them after the second quake on Saturday.
The facility accommodates 96 seniors who take part in physical rehabilitation programs aimed at helping them return to their homes.
“Many people of older generations have iron nerves, and few here are scared of earthquakes,” said Motohiro Sano, a manager at the facility. About 70 elderly people were put up in the facility after the quake. Sano said the center will increase the number of care workers to support them.
Isshin-en, a nursing home in Kanan, had to move its roughly 50 residents to a different site due to quake damage.
Although many of the residents say they want to return, an Isshin-en official said the damage will take two weeks to repair. “The children of many residents say they are too busy with work to take charge of their parents,” the official said.