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Five Years Later, Still Trying To Count Fukushima Deaths

The earthquake and subequent nuclear diaster in Fukushima were no doubt devastating, but Japan still struggles to quantify the number of deaths linked to them.

A 2013 visit to Fukushima by Japanese PM Shinzo Abe (in red helmet)
A 2013 visit to Fukushima by Japanese PM Shinzo Abe (in red helmet)
The Yomiuri Shimbun

After the 2011 earthquake and subsequent nuclear accident, there are significant discrepencies in the percentages of deaths recognized as related to the disaster, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

Across 25 municipalities affected in Fukushima Prefecture, the figures range from 33% in the city of Date to Soma's 100% as of the end of January this year, according to municipal governments.

The differences apparently stem from the fact that the central government has yet to provide clear guidelines for determining quake-related death. In the 25 municipalities, there were a total of 2,017 deaths deemed quake-related as of the end of January, exceeding the 1,604 deaths directly caused by tsunami and other elements of the March 11, 2011, disaster.

There are more than 600 cases that failed to be recognized, and some of the bereaved family members have filed lawsuits against relevant municipalities, seeking the reversal of the decision. In one case in Minami-Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, the father of a man in his 50s was in the hospital for treatment for dementia at the time of the outbreak of the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The father died of pneumonia at age of 82 in February 2014 after being transferred to multiple hospitals both inside and outside the prefecture. The municipal government did not deem this case connected to the 2011 disaster.

"It's not a matter of money," says the son. "I just want it to be officially recognized that the life of my father was shortened by the accident."

Kobe University Prof. Yasuhiro Ueno, a specialist in forensic medicine, said the major gaps in the percentage of recognized cases among neighboring municipalities is a cause for serious concern.

"As time goes by, it becomes more difficult to determine the causal relationship between a disaster and deaths because of the increased influence of such factors as a person's chronic disease," Ueno said. "It's necessary to unify the rules, including those relating to the period for accepting applications."

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

The Russian Orthodox Church Has A Kremlin Spy Network — And Now It's Spreading Abroad

The Russian Orthodox Church has long supported Russia’s ongoing war effort in Ukraine. Now, clergy members in other countries are suspected of collaborating with and recruiting for Russian security forces.

Photo of Russian soldiers during mass at an Orthodox church in Moscow.

Russian soldiers during mass at an Orthodox church in Moscow.

Wiktoria Bielaszyn

WARSAW — Several countries have accused members of the Russian Orthodox clergy of collaborating with Russian security services, pushing Kremlin policy inside the church and even recruiting spies from within.

On Sept. 21, Bulgaria deported Russian Archimandrite Vassian, guardian of the Orthodox parish in Sofia, along with two Belarusian priests. In a press release, the Bulgarian national security agency says that clergy were deported because they posed a threat to national security. "The measures were taken due to their actions against the security and interests of the Republic of Bulgaria," Bulgarian authorities wrote in a statement, according to Radio Svoboda.

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These reports were also confirmed by Russia's ambassador to Bulgaria, Eleonora Mitrofanova, who told Russian state news agency TASS that the priests must leave Bulgaria within 24 hours. “After being declared persona non grata, Wassian and the other two clerics were taken home under police supervision to pack up their belongings. Then they will be taken to the border with Serbia" she said.

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