Japan Quake Toll Rises as 11 More Likely Died From Illness

  • Local media say one woman died of `economy-class syndrome'
  • About 95,000 people remain in evacuation centers in Kumamoto

The death toll from earthquakes in the southern Japanese prefecture of Kumamoto rose to 58 Wednesday with 11 additional deaths from causes including illness.

The announcement Wednesday by the prefectural government may raise concerns for the 95,000 or so people remaining in evacuation centers six days after the first quake struck. Aftershocks are still rattling the area, and the Japan Meteorological Agency warned that heavy overnight rain could trigger landslides.

The Asahi newspaper and other local media reported Tuesday that one evacuee, a 51-year-old woman, died from so-called economy-class syndrome after sleeping several nights in a car. The syndrome refers to people sitting many hours in an airplane. The likely cause of death was the blockage of a lung’s artery caused by spending a long time in the same position, the newspaper said.

Ten others have been taken to a local hospital to receive treatment for the syndrome, the newspaper said. Public broadcaster NHK said Monday that two people at evacuation centers had been diagnosed as being infected with a norovirus.

Health Worries

Chiyoko Kobayashi, a 71-year-old woman staying at an evacuation center in Kumamoto, said she was worried about her health because her doctor is busy tending to people injured in the quakes.

“I worry whether I can get my usual examination from my doctor,” she said.

Rescue workers are shifting their focus to caring for displaced people. They are distributing blankets, bottles of water and hundreds of thousands of meals. Nearly 1,000 homes have been destroyed, with more than double that number damaged, according to Japan’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will head to the devastated area as soon as Thursday, the Sankei newspaper reported, citing unidentified government officials. Abe had been due to visit Kumamoto on Saturday -- two days after the first strong earthquake -- but canceled because a more powerful quake struck early that morning.

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