National / Crime & Legal

Chaos at Sagamihara care facility leaves residents in limbo

Kyodo

Following Tuesday’s knife attack at a care home for people with disabilities, concerns have emerged over how to care for the survivors who must remain at the gruesome crime scene.

According to prefectural authorities and the managers of Tsukui Yamayuri En care home in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, 69 male and 45 female residents were left unharmed, and most of them, about 100, still live there.

The facility for people with intellectual and other disabilities is divided into eight areas with 20 residents each. Six sections were attacked by the knife-wielding man, who murdered 19 residents and injured 26.

Since most of the center’s premises have been blocked off by the investigation, the interference has prompted the operator to consider transferring some residents to other facilities.

After the attack early Tuesday, all male residents were moved to a gymnasium on the premises, where they took their meals and rested for the remainder of the day. The female residents stayed in a women’s section that was spared by the attacker, who police identified as former employee Satoshi Uematsu, 26.

However, problems emerged Wednesday morning as only one bathroom was available, forcing the staff into a logistic struggle so all residents could take a bath.

The bathroom wasn’t the only place where residents felt cramped. The partial shutdown has also robbed residents of their exercise and gardening time, leaving them stuck in one place. Some have complained they are distressed that they can’t move around in the facility.

“I hope we will take them outdoors during the day,” a facility staffer said, adding such adjustments will need to take each resident’s health into consideration.

To deal with the trauma, the survivors will also need psychological support.

“The situation in the facility is dire; I doubt that cleaning up the scene will be sufficient to bring everything back to the way it was,” said an officer at Kanagawa Prefecture’s Public Health and Social Welfare Bureau. “We need to think whether it is better to let the survivors stay in the facility despite their stresses, or move them to other facilities.”

Some residents were injured severely.

A man in his 20s with severe intellectual disabilities had lost four-fifths of his blood by the time he was taken to a university hospital in Hachioji, western Tokyo, along with three other residents.

He was found in a pool of blood in a corridor after receiving two stab wounds to the neck, according to the Tokyo Medical University Hachioji Medical Center.

To stop the bleeding, the doctors inserted a catheter into an artery and transfused blood while placing him on a ventilator. “Help,” was the first word the man uttered when a nurse removed the breathing tube after he regained consciousness Tuesday evening.

Assured that he was safe and being treated at a hospital, the patient looked relieved and asked whether the attacker had been caught. He also said he was hungry.

All four had regained consciousness by Wednesday and three were transferred to other medical facilities in Kanagawa Prefecture, where they are undergoing treatment, the hospital officials said.

Others, meanwhile, remained in danger.

The parents of a 51-year-old resident who was stabbed in the chest rushed to the hospital as soon as they were notified by the facility but were unable to see their son because he was in surgery.

They got their first glimpse of him, breathing through a ventilator, late at night.

The man was admitted to the care facility some 20 years ago. He most recently visited his parents in Sagamihara on July 10.

“I don’t feel any relief,” said his 79-year-old mother. “How cruel someone must be to abuse those who are weak.”

“The facility’s staff members had really good relationships with the residents’ kin. I have no idea where the suspect’s hatred came from,” his 82-year-old father said.