Photo/IllutrationA female resident of the “Yume no Sato” special nursing home for the elderly in Kimitsu, Chiba Prefecture, is about to be rushed to a hospital on Sept. 11 after developing a fever of almost 39 degrees. (Shoko Terasaki)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

KIMITSU, Chiba Prefecture--“We do not know how much longer we can hold on."

That grim warning from an executive of a nursing home for the elderly here was in response to the crisis facing the “Yume no Sato” facility as it strives to cope with a power blackout triggered by powerful Typhoon No. 15 on Sept. 9.

With the air conditioners not working, residents and staff members struggle to spend time indoors amid daytime temperatures of around 35 degrees.

Three days after the typhoon passed over the area, the facility, with a capacity for 80 residents, was still without power.

Six residents developed fevers on Sept. 10. The number increased to 11 the following day.

An 82-year-old female resident was rushed to a hospital after developing a fever of 38.9 degrees. With the elevator out of action, moving the woman on a makeshift stretcher from her room on the third floor to the first floor required the assistance of four people, ambulance crew and staff members.

The woman was diagnosed as suffering from dehydration due to heatstroke, which exacerbated her chronic heart condition.

“The temperature does not even drop much at night," said worried nurse Yoshie Ikeda, 53. “Some residents cannot sleep at night and they are showing growing signs of fatigue.”

About 10 electric generators that can be powered by gas cartridges are now working around the clock.

Some were placed in the rooms of residents who require special oxygen inhalation apparatus, while the others were used to power two refrigerators for the medical treatment room and day-care services.

Flush toilets were also knocked out of action as the facility’s electric pumps do not work due to the blackout. Staff are forced to lug 20 plastic tanks each day that contain 20 liters of water each to be poured into small buckets so people can flush the toilets.

Meals of boiled rice, as well as rice gruel, miso soup and other simple dishes are prepared in a dark kitchen.

Because of the heat, many residents have lost their appetite. Some residents are trying to reduce their intake of fluids with the aim of cutting down on trips to the toilet.

"Some residents are suffering from light heatstroke due to the water shortage," said Hiroshi Amagasa, an executive of the facility. “We do not know how much longer we can hold on. We pray the people concerned will hurry up and restore power to the facility.”

Of the 709 facilities for elderly people, disabled people or children in the prefecture under prefectural administrative jurisdiction, at least 131 were experiencing power outages and 98 were without water as of 1 p.m. on Sept. 11.