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Hundreds of bodies in Japan nuclear exclusion zone: report

NZealand mulls mass grave for quake victims
Wellington (AFP) March 31, 2011 - New Zealand said Thursday that up to 12 Christchurch earthquake victims whose remains have not been identified may be buried in a mass grave. A total of 181 people were missing presumed dead after the 6.3-magnitude quake devastated New Zealand's second largest city on February 22 and all but 12 had been identified, chief coroner Neil McLean said. McLean said it may prove impossible to put names to all the remains, which consist largely of bone fragments and teeth. He said while every effort would be made to identify the victims, including DNA testing, a mass grave might prove necessary.

Authorities were forced to bury unidentified remains in a mass grave following the 1979 Mount Erebus disaster, when an Air New Zealand flight crashed in Antarctica, killing 257 people, McLean said. "It was a similar situation at Erebus. Eventually there were unidentified remains which, as I understand it, were buried in some sort of mass grave. Now that's one option," he told radio station Newstalk ZB. McLean said all of the unidentified Christchurch victims died in the Canterbury Television building, which housed a language school filled with mainly Asian students, that collapsed and burst into flames when the quake hit. He said discussions with the victims' families would be held before any decision on burying them in a mass grave was made.
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) April 1, 2011
Up to 1,000 bodies of victims of Japan's quake and tsunami remain uncollected in the exclusion zone around a stricken nuclear plant because of radiation fears, a report said Friday.

Citing police sources, Kyodo News said that authorities had intended to transport the bodies outside the 20-kilometre (12-mile) evacuation zone imposed around the Fukushima power station, but were reconsidering the plan.

The bodies had been "exposed to high levels of radiation after death", the report quoted a source as saying, adding elevated levels of radioactivity were found Sunday on the body of a victim about five kilometres from the plant.

Local police decided not to retrieve that body because of the radiation, the report said.

Over 28,000 people have been confirmed dead or listed as missing since the twin natural disasters which hit on March 11, devastating the northeast coast and crippling the atomic plant, which has since been leaking radiation.

Workers have struggled to cool the plant, prevent a large-scale meltdown and dispose of thousands of tonnes of highly contaminated run-off water, while radioactive substances have tainted foodstuffs and groundwater nearby.

Japan said Thursday the plant would be scrapped following the crisis.

Authorities are considering decontaminating the bodies in the nuclear exclusion zone where they are found, but are concerned that the process could damage decomposing bodies further, hampering identification, Kyodo said.

If the bodies were handed back to relatives without decontamination, cremating them could spread plumes containing radioactive substances, while burying them might contaminate the soil, the report added.

After the tsunami transported some victims long distances, and families were separated by the wave of destruction, many in the disaster-hit region have spent the time since the disaster seeking signs of their missing friends and family.

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