Japan to Mark 10 Years After 1995 Sarin Gas Attack on Tokyo Subways

TOKYO, March 18–(Kyodo) _ Japan will mark the 10th anniversary Sunday of the deadly sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system carried out by former top members of the AUM Shinrikyo cult, leaving many issues, including care for the attack’s survivors, still unresolved.

As is customary, Tokyo subway workers and relatives will observe a moment of silence at 8 a.m. — about the time the attack took place on five trains on three subway lines in central Tokyo on March 20, 1995. They will also offer flowers at stations affected in what was one of the worst attacks in Japan’s postwar history.

The attack killed 12 people and injured more than 5,500 others. Of the 12 who perished, two were subway workers at Kasumigaseki Station on the Hibiya Line. The two other subway lines where sarin was released were the Marunouchi and Chiyoda lines.

Also, flower tribute stands and register books for messages will be set up at business offices at several subway stations — Kasumigaseki, Nakanosakaue, Kodemmacho, Hatchobori, Tsukiji and Kamiyacho — from the day’s first train to the last ride.

On Saturday, victims and their supporters will hold an assembly at a Tokyo hall to discuss the current situation of victims and renew their call on the government to provide them with more assistance.

Family members of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks in the United States will come from New York and relate their experiences at the assembly, said Shizue Takahashi, wife of one of the two subway workers who died and representing a group of 1995 gassing victims.

The same day, survivors, family members as well as medical and support staff for the sufferers will take part in a memorial walk. The event is aimed at urging the government to look at the plight of those still suffering from physical and psychological aftereffects, and it is also hoped it will have a therapeutic effect for participants.

Yogo Isogai, secretariat chief of a Tokyo-based private group that conducts free medical checks yearly for sarin survivors, said, “We cannot really grasp the total picture of people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or assess whether the situation is getting better because in the first place we do not have all the numbers, manpower, expertise and funding.”

The Recovery Support Center has records of about 1,600 people.

According to the center’s data, of 139 people who came to have medical checks last year, about 85 percent said their eyes easily became tired, 50 percent complained of headaches and 26 percent suffered post-traumatic stress disorder such as flashbacks of the attack, nightmares, irritability, anxiety and forgetfulness.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has offered since 1997 an aftercare system for victims suffering aftereffects, but so far only a total of 37 people have made use of the service. The system only serves those with workers’ compensation.

AUM founder Shoko Asahara, 50, was sentenced to death Feb. 27 last year for his role in 13 criminal cases, including the subway attack, that resulted in the death of a total of 27 people. His defense team has appealed the ruling.

AUM renamed itself Aleph in January 2000 in an apparent attempt to distance itself from its criminal image, but it remains under government surveillance.

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Kyodo News Service, Japan
Mar. 17, 2005

Religion News Blog posted this on Friday March 18, 2005.
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