. Earth Science News .

Search goes on for thousands of Japan's tsunami missing
by Staff Writers
Ishinomaki, Japan (AFP) Jan 30, 2012

Leaden winter skies lour on a coastguard boat as it cuts its way through the seas off Japan's tsunami-wrecked shores.

Somewhere under these unforgiving grey waters lie hundreds, perhaps thousands of bodies; the unfound, unclaimed dead of one of the country's worst ever disasters.

Even though the hunt on these sullen seas goes on every day, Yoshifumi Suzuki says none of his coastguard colleagues has seen a single corpse since the partial remains of a man were untangled from a fishing net in November.

But they are not prepared to give up.

"If we don't do this, nobody will," Suzuki said.

"We want to continue the search until we find the very last one. I want to return people to their families not because it is my official duty, but because it is my duty as a human being."

"The (missing) person is in the mind of his or her family but they still want proof that the person lived in this world. I think it's hard for them to accept the reality" without a body, he said.

The massive tsunami that pummelled Japan in March last year claimed more than 19,000 lives. One-in-six of the dead has never been found.

In the ravaged port city of Ishinomaki and the adjacent town of Onagawa, 20 percent of the 4,700 victims are still officially listed as missing, although no-one believes they will be found alive.

"If the sea was transparent, we would be able to find more people. It's awful," Suzuki told AFP aboard the 26-ton Shimakaze.

Occasional snow stings the five-strong crew as they peer through winter fog at the surface of the sea and use underwater sonar equipment to detect submerged cars or other debris that can trap bodies.

If they see anything that suggests a corpse, they call for divers.

But visibility below the surface is only one metre (three feet) and the cold temperature means frogmen can be in the water for no more than a few minutes.

Yoshiyuki Kikuchi, the captain of the Shimakaze, remembers the horror of the tsunami and the frantic days he spent in the initial search for bodies.

When he got the tsunami warning, Kikuchi sailed out to sea to protect his boat -- waves are smaller offshore and easier to ride over.

He saw a huge wall of water coming his way 10 kilometres (six miles) offshore.

"It was a large swell that I had never seen in this area before," he said.

"Then I began to see rubble coming (from the shore) on the backwash -- destroyed houses, tyres and cargo containers -- it was a horrific scene."

His passage blocked by the swirling clouds of flotsam, Kikuchi was only able to return to port on the third day after the disaster and immediately began the task of recovering bodies.

It is a task he has done over the more than 10 months since the tragedy struck, and one that is getting harder all the time.

"We are doing our best but it is becoming more and more difficult," Kikuchi said.

On land, a police search continues through Kesennuma, a city practically wiped out by the tsunami and subsequent fires, but no bodies have been unearthed since December.

For parents of children at the destroyed Okawa elementary school, there can be no end until the last four of the 74 dead youngsters are found.

Wrapped up against the bitter January cold, four men dig through the mud and soil in their sad hunt for remains.

"Children are still missing. We are here so that they can go home as soon as possible," said one of the men, who did not want to give his name.

Two policemen on secondment from Tokyo stopped at the school to offer prayers at an altar built to the memory of the 74 children and 10 school officials killed on March 11.

"My heart aches," said one. "I've seen parents who are looking for their children, including a mother who even obtained a licence to operate heavy equipment for the search.

"I think their sorrow will never leave their hearts... but I sincerely hope the missing people will be found soon."

Related Links
Bringing Order To A World Of Disasters
When the Earth Quakes
A world of storm and tempest

Get Our Free Newsletters Via Email
Buy Advertising Editorial Enquiries


. Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Thais evacuate after big wave hits village: official
Bangkok (AFP) Dec 25, 2011
About one hundred people in southern Thailand were evacuated Sunday and several tourists were stranded when a large wave flooded a coastal village, a local official said. The three-to-four metre (10-to-13 feet) high wave inundated a shore on the Gulf of Thailand, causing floods of one metre deep and damaging houses in a village in Chumphon province, according to provincial governor Pinich Ch ... read more

Japan studies flora and fauna near Fukushima plant

N.Z. quake bill to approach $25 bn: central bank

NOAA satellites aid in the rescue of 207 people in 2011

Radiation fears slow Japan tsunami clear-up

Congolese inventor puts African tablet on sale

SciTechTalk: The smartphone debate

Catalyzing new uses for diesel by-products

Supermaterial goes superpermeable

UMass Amherst Ecologists among the First to Record and Study Deep-sea Fish Noises

Detecting Detrimental Change in Coral Reefs

Sensor sensibility offers better protection for concrete coastal structures

Scientists Aboard Iberian Coast Ocean Drilling Expedition Report Early Findings

Glaciar theft: Chilean police recover stolen ice

Norway wants to block China from Arctic Council: report

Satellites detect abundance of fresh water in the Arctic

Alaskan farewell to Russian tanker after fuel run

Truckloads of Chinese rice enter N. Korea: activist

Overgrazed grasslands tied to locust outbreaks

Recent study by Mars underscores health benefits of cocoa flavanols

Geoengineering and global food supply

Tsunami debris survey launched northwest of Midway

Scores injured in Peruvian earthquake

Search goes on for thousands of Japan's tsunami missing

Scores injured in Peruvian earthquake

Sudan army frees 14 'kidnapped' Chinese: report

African Union unveils Chinese-built headquarters

New AU headquarters marks strong China-Africa ties

US Navy SEALs prove their mettle again

Japan's population to shrink two thirds by 2110

Following the first steps out of Africa

Arabia saw first humans out of Africa

The price of your soul: How the brain decides whether to 'sell out'


The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2012 - Space Media Network. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement