Japanese Tsunami 2011

Survivors still face psychological distress

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 March, 2012, 12:00am

The Idogawa family survived the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan a year ago yesterday, but like many survivors the family has only just begun to heal.

'The children still have nightmares and would wake up crying. When the TV replays footage of the earthquake, we won't let them see it even now,' said mother Makiko Idogawa, who lived in Minamisoma, a town 19.5 kilometres away from the Fukushima nuclear plant.

She was upstairs at home when the earthquake hit, and ran down to her youngest daughter - six years old at the time - who was hiding under the kotatsu, a low wooden table covered by a blanket, while cupboards and bookcases crashed down around her. Her two older daughters Haruka and Asuka were in school.

Mikiko's husband Mitsuo was working in Osaka when the earthquake hit, and blocked and damaged roads meant he was not able to get home until a week later.

The family later moved to temporary housing not too far from their home due to nuclear leakage at the plant, while Makiko slowly recovered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The family came to Hong Kong to attend an event held by the Post Crisis Counselling Network, hoping to honour volunteers who helped them and to raise awareness about the psychological harm that the quake inflicted on survivors.

'I want to thank Hongkongers for their support, and we will continue to hold on. We won't leave our home, and one day, we hope to see Fukushima rise again,' said father Mitsuo.

The network's executive director Timothy To Wing-ching said counsellors found it difficult to reach the victims, as the Japanese have a strong sense of pride and respect. But he said there was a great need for counselling. The suicide rates sky-rocketed in disaster struck regions, once reaching a record high of more than 3,400 suicides a month, said To.

Various events were also held in Hong Kong to mark the first year's anniversary of the tragedy.

Salvation Army lieutenant colonel Samuel Pho Xuyen Tam urged Hongkongers to continue giving, and to visit Japan as volunteers.

'Share their pain - 'cry with those who are crying'. It's a blessing to walk with the victims in their journey to recovery,' said Pho, quoting the Bible. He understands the feeling of hopelessness, being a Vietnamese refugee himself.

A photo exhibition by Frances Tong, displaying the natural beauty of pre-earthquake Fukushima, is at Central Plaza until March 30. Proceeds from photo sales go to charity.