Could Japanese Tsunami Death Toll be Far Higher Than Reported?

This article raises some questions about the official dead and missing toll from the Japanese Tsunami.

When the counts of people that are alive, dead, missing and unidentified dead bodies are counted there are discrepancies amounting to thousands of people in just in the town of Otsuchi alone compared to the 2010 census count. The trouble is if a whole family is killed, then there is nobody to report them missing and if the bodies are swept out to sea there are no bodies to count.

How plausible is the current 21,000 death count? Could the real number be over 30,000?

Absolutely it could he higher, 30,000 possibly? For a disaster of that magnitude we’re just never going to know exactly.

For a high tech extremely advanced country, Japan is surprisingly bad at some things, and keeping track of their own population seems to be one of them. Eg see here:

I wonder how the Japanese census differs from the U.S. census. The 2010 U.S. census should have the name of every person living in every household in the country. Such a census is never complete, but I hardly think such a large percentage of the population could slip though the cracks. The article I cited was talking about over half the population of a town being unaccounted for.

The article cited by coremelt is sad. Dying with no one to mourn you is bad, but no one even notices you are gone?

I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the numbers were under reported in Japan. The nuclear plant leakage has probably been under reported to.

They may have borrowed a page from the Chinese playbook.

There’s been several times the Chinese claimed nothing happened or it wasn’t very bad.
There were some trapped miners a few year ago. Word leaked out they died. Not true according to the gov. :dubious: Last month two trains collided and the official death toll has been unusually low and coverage limited by authorities.

Since this is GQ, can you please provide evidence for this claim.

They certainly took their sweet time in raising the disaster level to an appropriate number. Even after US Navy ships detected radiation 100 miles out at sea, Japanese Authorities still insisted the incident was only local in nature. Basically, it took a major shaming by the international media to get them to admit that the problem was really pretty serious after all.

Here is todays’s story:

Measured radiation levels exceed lethal levels and exceed the measurable limits with the instruments used. So if the Gov’t faithfully reported all actual measurements, something that is in question, they still would have seriously underreported the actual radiation levels. As I understand it, this is the first time lethal levels of radiation has been actually measured onsite. Note it has been several months since the release.

The size of the area is reported in yards. It doesn’t pose any risk to the general public. I actually surprised there haven’t been cases of radiation sickness reported among workers at the plant.

How does your cite demonstrate that “nuclear plant leakage has probably been under reported to”, though? AFAICT they reported it when they discovered it. There was no attempt, again AFAICT, to minimize or marginalize the story or handwave away the radiation levels by the government.

I think a lot of what people think is ‘under reporting’ is simply that the government and vendor didn’t/don’t have instant answers or magical machines that can instantly cut through the chaos of the situation and give concise figures and facts about what’s going on. Reality is more like the fog of war, where some things are reveled over time and others remain opaque forever.

As for the OP, I also wouldn’t be surprised if the death toll due to the tsunami were higher than reported. It was a huge disaster and many communities were so disrupted that it might be years (or never) before the full stories are pieced back together.


The thing that struck me, wasn’t that the death count is low, but that is it would so far off. The article indicates that it might me half again higher than the official count.

There’s an English translation of their census form avaiable here.

But I don’t think that the problem is that they don’t know who the missing people are.

It actually look a little similar to the U.S. form. but more detailed.

I not sure what the problem would be. If you start with the census list, then exclude all the people who are known living or known dead then the remainder are ‘missing’. The hard part would be dealing with the people who moved to or away since October 1st 2010. It is also fairly hard, since there doesn’t appear to be anything live a social security number on the Japanese form.

I’m also not sure how much information from the census forms is retained. The wikipedia article indicates that the actual physical forms are destroyed.

Just wanted to share this speech by Professor Tatsuhiko Kodama from the University of Tokyo I have to say it sounds pretty alarming.