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Indirect deaths from Kumamoto quakes could hit 130

Rows of cars that evacuees used as shelters are pictured in Kumamoto Prefecture on April 25, 2016, less than two weeks after two deadly earthquakes struck the prefecture. (Mainichi)

KUMAMOTO -- Some 130 people are suspected to have died indirectly from the powerful earthquakes that struck Kumamoto Prefecture in April, it has emerged -- many more than the 49 direct deaths.

The Kumamoto Prefectural Government has already announced that over 20 people are thought to have died indirectly from the quakes. The Mainichi surveyed 36 municipalities in the prefectures where homes had suffered at least partial quake damage and found that people had filed for recognition of indirect deaths for an additional 59 people in Kumamoto, two in the city of Koshi, one in the city of Yatsushiro and one each in the towns of Mashiki and Ozu -- a total of 64.

Bereaved family members of another 51 people in 16 municipalities had made inquiries about applying. Those who inquired about how to apply and other such issues numbered 10 in Mashiki, six in the town of Kikuyo, five in the city of Uto, and four in the city of Aso.

Indirect fatalities, determined by municipal governments, include deaths caused by the physical burden that people face after evacuating.

Once municipalities receive applications, they are screened by a committee including doctors and lawyers. If a death is recognized to have been an indirect fatality, the bereaved family receives payment under the Act on Provision of Disaster Condolence Grants. For the main provider of a family the amount is 5 million yen; for others it is 2.5 million yen.

On July 1, the Kumamoto Municipal Government accepted six deaths as indirect fatalities in the first meeting of a screening committee held since the quakes. The fatalities included a person who had suffered breathing difficulties while evacuated in a vehicle, and a person whose condition deteriorated while being moved from one hospital to another. On top of the 49 direct deaths, these six cases bring the number of accepted quake related deaths so far to 55.

Hirotada Hirose, professor emeritus at Tokyo Woman's Christian University and an expert in disaster risk studies, commented, "There are thought to have been cases in which people have died from psychological shock from the quake disaster in addition to fatigue, and so local bodies should provide a wide scope of relief for suspected indirect deaths."

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