TOKYO (THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) -In areas hit hard recently by Typhoon No. 19, it has become likely that staying in evacuation centres for a prolonged period will be unavoidable for some people.
As colder weather sets in, meticulous care that places top priority on safeguarding the health of victims of this disaster will be needed.
About 4,000 people in 11 prefectures, including Tokyo, have been forced to lead uncomfortable lives at school gymnasiums and community halls that have become evacuation centers. Most of the evacuees are in Fukushima, Nagano and Miyagi prefectures.
The temperature in the mornings and evenings drops to around 10 deg C in these places, and it will become even chillier in the weeks ahead.
There are concerns the physical strength of the disaster victims will fade.
The risk of catching infectious diseases such as influenza and the norovirus while staying in evacuation centres will rise.
A growing number of influenza patients have been recorded in Fukushima Prefecture. Thorough hygiene management steps, such as wearing masks and frequently washing one's hands, should be followed.
Elderly people and people with chronic illnesses are more susceptible to falling into poor health.
It is vital that registered nurses and public health nurses go to the evacuation centres and ensure that any deterioration in the condition of evacuees is not overlooked. Disaster-related deaths, in which living as an evacuee for a prolonged period causes a person to lose their life, must be prevented.
Some evacuation centres are holding far more people than their intended capacity. Living in overcrowded conditions is stressful. Local governments should take steps to ensure the privacy of evacuees, such as by placing curtains as partitions between evacuees and setting up tents where they can change clothes.
Many evacuees travel from evacuation centres to clean up their homes that were flooded by the typhoon. Ten days have passed since the disaster struck, so fatigue likely will be building.
In disaster-affected areas, dried mud is turning to clouds of dust that whirl about in the air. This could trigger respiratory illnesses or conjunctivitis even in healthy people.
Amid these harsh conditions, volunteers are being of great help to the disaster victims. Rebuilding the hard-hit areas will take time. Ideally, many volunteers will continuously help out in affected areas.
In the weeks ahead, finding places for evacuees to live will be a focus of attention. Many local governments in the affected areas first plan to use public housing and have started the process of allowing people to move in.
The "minashi kasetsu" (quasi-temporary housing) system, in which local governments borrow privately rented accommodation and use this as temporary housing, also should be put to good use.
In some cases, temporary housing is located far from an evacuee's home. Many people wish to live close to their home so they can clean up their house and their children can go to school, among other reasons.
It is essential that local governments flexibly respond to such preferences.
A disaster-victim certificate is necessary for moving into temporary housing. These certificates are issued based on on-site inspections conducted by local government officials, but it has frequently been pointed out that their issuance has been delayed after previous disasters.
It will be vital to ensure these procedures do not get bogged down, by making efforts such as using aerial photography and asking other local governments to dispatch staff to assist the process.
The Yomiuri Shimbun is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 24 news media organisations.