Is the Japanese government massively understating the potential death toll from the recent disaster? The answer is related to both the need to stop panic and the way the government records and reports missing persons. They do it very conservatively.
I saw the video of 30 and 40 feet of debris covering what had formerly been villages and towns in the tsunami region and, considering that even with the best warning network in the world, the people only had a few minutes warning, my experience and training in emergency management led me to believe the final death toll would be massively higher than the official numbers given by the Japanese government.
Since the first day’s reports the numbers have steadily climbed and they have only started clearing the rubble.
The initial numbers from the government were that there were only a few hundred dead and a thousand or so missing – no one believed those reports but they were “official” numbers. That initial stand by the government is a large contributor to the feeling that everything is much worse than is being reported.
The initial government statements led me to check a few critical details including just how Japan records and reports the number of “missing.”
Unfortunately, what I found confirmed my worst fears. The way Japan reported fatalities and missing persons resulted in the actual death toll being very under reported by U.S. standards.
This doesn’t mean the Japanese government was “technically” misleading people.
But, consider this from someone on the scene,
“Ken Joseph, 53, an associate professor at Chiba University who was born in Japan to American parents, is heading our small convoy and he is at his wits’ end. On the way up from Sendai, he had said: “I used to come to Ishinomaki as a kid. It’s a whaling town and we used to call it Stinkimaki because of the rank fish smell.”
But he isn’t joking now. “I think the death toll is going to be closer to 100,000 than 10,000,” he said. “Why is there no food? I have been to every disaster zone in the last 20 years and I have never seen anything remotely like this. I think we’re on the brink of chaos.”
The entire situation is complicated by the way Japan reports the number of missing which I believe isn’t understood by most reporters or even the Japanese people.
In Japan it is standard procedure to record someone as missing only after an official report is made by a family member or close neighbor.
What happens when entire villages and towns are missing? What about entire police departments and local governments under 20 feet of rubble?
The simple answer is that in a disaster of this magnitude it could take years to actually tabulate the number of dead. History gives the proof.
Time has reported that it took 10 years to get an “official” final report on the number of fatalities resulting from the Kobe earthquake.
I sincerely hope I am wrong and fewer than 100,000 people have died but I still think the eventual final estimate of fatalities will be much closer to 100,000 than 7,000.
With all the panic being incited by the network TV news in the U.S. about POSSIBLE nuclear reactor radiation dangers I find it disappointing that none of them seem to be reporting this anomaly in the way Japan reports the potential final fatality estimates from this terrible disaster.
Can entire regions be devastated and only a relatively few die? I hope so, but don’t believe in that sort of lottery win.
Do the TV networks have some agenda? Or are they just really, really dumb or completely unqualified to report on such events?
I am just asking the question, but I remember hearing the NBC Nightly News (Friday, March 18) talking head saying that the next segment would include a story about an ASTROLOGICAL event.
It was actually about an ASTRONOMICAL event, a slightly closer than average point in the orbit of the moon.
Perhaps I didn’t hear him correctly, but I think I did.
Anyone can misspeak but what I find significant is that either the script he wrote noted that it was an astrological, not astronomical event, OR, even worse, what sprang into his mind on quickly reading the cue cards was some unscientific nonsense rather than a real event.
Is this the person to depend on to give you scientific information about nuclear physics?
My often repeated advice is DO NOT GET LIFE CRITICAL INFORMATION FROM TV NEWS!