Monday, 10 March 2014

Thousands of tsunami victims still missing in Japan three years after disaster

More than 2,600 people remain missing in Japan three years after the nation was hit by a major earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, according to the latest police figures.

Search operations continue across swathes of the northeast coastline, where the majority of lives lost in the March 11, 2011, disaster were those swept away by the tsunami.

The figures came to light as Japan prepared to commemorate on Tuesday the third anniversary of the disaster - the nation's worst peacetime loss of life, claiming 15,884 lives.

In addition, 2,636 remain officially missing, mostly in the three worst hit prefectures Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima.

The remains of 98 people are also unidentified, according to the latest figures from the National Police Agency.

Three years after the disaster, life in many disaster-hit communities appears, on the surface at least, to have tentatively returned to normal, with much of the rubble cleared away and businesses reopened.

However, the challenges facing bereaved relatives of those whose bodies have never been found remain complex, with many determined to find their loved ones in order to finally lay them to rest.

Monthly searches are conducted on the 11th of each month by police officers, Maritime Safety Agency personnel and local volunteers, at the request of relatives of the missing.

Among those determined not to give up is Yasuo Takamatsu, 57, from the small fishing town of Onagawa, Miyagi prefecture, whose wife Yuko disappeared in the tsunami.

The bus driver recently took the unusual step of learning how to scuba dive in order to take to the chilly waters of the Pacific Ocean and search the seabed for signs of his still-missing wife himself.

Mrs Takamatsu, then 47, a bank worker, was one of 250 people who are still missing from the town, which was hit badly by the disaster, with more than 800 people swept to their deaths by the 65-foot tsunami.

Mr Takamatsu described how the last text message he received from his wife shortly after the earthquake said simply "I want to go home", while another unsent message later found on her discovered mobile phone, was found to read "Tsunami huge".

He added: "That was the last message from her. I feel terrible thinking she is still out there. I want to bring her home as soon as possible."

Monday 10 March 2014


Post a Comment