As rescue and support operations for people hit by the March 11 magnitude-9 earthquake and subsequent tsunami go on, every effort must be made to prevent the deaths of people who have survived the disaster. Elderly survivors, especially, find themselves in difficult straits. Timely support must be given to these weaker survivors.

Also some people may still be isolated in communities or spots where their presence have not been noticed by local government workers and other support personnel. The Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. armed forces must continue to utilize their equipment and abilities to find such people. Even if they have been located, ordinary land vehicles may have difficulty reaching them. SDF and U.S. military helicopters must continue to play an important role in transporting necessary goods and personnel to such inaccessible spots.

Elderly people in temporary evacuation shelters need special attention. Food delivered to such places often may not meet their taste. Some elderly people feel that they may be causing trouble to other evacuees because of their frequent use of toilets. Thus they stay in colder spots that are near temporary toilets outside. Others limit intake of water and risk dehydration. The disaster also deprived elderly evacuees afflicted with chronic diseases of prescribed medicines.

In the case of the 1995 great earthquake that devastated Kobe and its adjacent areas, some 1,000 elderly lost lives, suffering from bronchitis, pneumonia, heart failure, etc., under conditions like those just described.

To wheelchair-bound evacuees, staircases, the differences in floor levels inside a temporary shelter or between a shelter and the ground as well as narrow temporary toilet closets cause great difficulty. Evacuees with mental illnesses also face problems.

It is necessary to move the weakest evacuees to safer places, including welfare facilities, that have enough support personnel and equipment. Setting up special shelters for elderly evacuees and moving them en masse to regions not affected by the disaster are also urgent tasks.

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