46 Hanshin quake survivors died solitary deaths in public housing in 2008

KOBE (Kyodo) Forty-six survivors of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake died alone last year in the public housing complexes set up after the disaster in Hyogo Prefecture, data compiled by Kyodo News showed Wednesday.

The finding brings the tally of those who died solitary deaths in the complexes to 568 since 2000, when temporary housing for the survivors was shut down.

The figure is down by 14 from 2007 and the lowest number since 2000. The average age of those who died alone was 72, with the oldest a 95-year-old woman.

According to Hyogo Prefectural Police, 27 were men and 19 were women.

While the majority died of illnesses or natural causes, eight died in accidents, including drowning in the bathroom, and one committed suicide.

The bodies of 28 of the 46 were found within a day of their death. In one case, however, a 72-year-old man’s corpse in Kobe was not discovered until relatives went to visit him about five months later.

As of the end of November, 47 percent of those living in the public housing complexes were 65 or older.

The powerful earthquake that hit Kobe and surrounding regions on Jan. 17, 1995, had a magnitude of 7.3. It left 6,434 people dead, 44,000 injured and flattened 105,000 houses, becoming the biggest natural disaster in the postwar period. Many of those displaced were forced to seek refuge in temporary housing.