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The government’s 2009 white paper on natural disaster prevention shows that 62 percent of people surveyed feel that the risk of death or injury in Japan during natural disasters such as typhoons and earthquakes has increased. In this Internet survey, conducted in February and March and covering 1,500 people 20 years of age or older, 80 percent of those people mentioned unusual weather in recent years and 38 percent cited a decline in the ability of communities to minimize damage from natural disasters because of weaker human bonds.

Elderly people often bear the brunt of natural disasters because, as the white paper points out, a higher percentage of them live in depopulated mountainous areas and urban housing complexes. For example, of the 20 people who died in the July 2004 torrential rains that hit Niigata, Fukushima and Fukui prefectures, 17 were at least 65 years old.

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