NetIBNews reported on a major problem faced by the SDF in their clean-up operations: how to remove the overwhelming smell of the effluent thrown over the disaster area by the tsunami:

The Hidden Enemy of the Disaster Area: the Smell – SDF Apply Deodorant

Black sludge containing oil, sewage, and sea-life, covered large parts of the disaster zone

Black sludge containing oil, sewage, and sea-life, covered large parts of the disaster zone (Source: USA Today)

Across the areas affected by the Great Tohoku Earthquake, the smell of soil saturated with sea water, rubble and other artifacts of destruction hanging in the air is hindering reconstruction efforts, according to volunteers and reports on the ground. The smell is an especially serious problem for the SDF members involved in the reconstruction efforts and the search for the missing.

A former GSDF member with experience in disaster relief efforts, Tsuyoshi Shibata, states that from his experience, he believes the smell is undoubtedly a problem for the dispatched SDF troops. “In the disaster area, without bathing and laundry facilities, the smell cannot be removed from their clothing. Furthermore, the tsunami left behind large quantities of waste which will become more pungent as the days drag on. The smell is a strong reminder of the terrible destruction. As it may be a cause of PTSD and other mental health issues, this issue cannot be ignored.”

Shibata is currently managing director of Respect Web (in Fukuoka), which is selling deodorizing agents. On May 13th, Shibata donated ¥1.2-1.3 million of odor removal equipment, including 200 liters of Vetiver Spray – a deodorizing fluid, to the GSDF 4th Division, based at Camp Fukuoka, Kasuga. The 4th Division currently has around 4,100 members and 1,200 vehicles involved in the search for missing persons, water and food supplies, logistical support, and organizational assistance, as well as the supply of bathing facilities in Kesennuma and Minami-Sanriku in Miyagi Prefecture.

Evacuation shelters are also looking for deodorant. The smell of the toilets is adding to the stress of the evacuees who are finding it difficult to adapt to communal living. There are many requests from the disaster area to manufacturers for deodorants. It is probably necessary for us to consider these real-time changes occurring in the disaster zone as the reconstruction and supply operations continue.

Volunteer reports often mention the smell of oil, dead fish, and sewage. There is no doubt that it is a major problem if you have to live with the smell day after day. Anything that adds to the already immense stresses upon the SDF relief forces should be dealt with swiftly. The real hidden danger in all of this is the incidences of PTSD creeping out in reports from troops returning to their home bases.

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A former contributor to World Intelligence (Japan Military Review), James Simpson joined Japan Security Watch in 2011, migrating with his blog Defending Japan. He has a Masters in Security Studies from Aberystwyth University and is currently living in Kawasaki, Japan. His primary interests include the so-called 'normalization' of Japanese security (i.e. militarization), and the political impact of the abduction issue with North Korea.
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