The Freeland File
Global Market Data
Tales from the Trail
Lucy P. Marcus
David Cay Johnston
The Great Debate
Jack & Suzy Welch
Macro & Markets
Lipper awards 2012
Personal Finance Video
Our best photos from the last 24 hours. Full Article
Images of February
Israel asks U.S. for arms that could aid Iran strike
08 Mar 2012
Banks foreclosing on churches in record numbers
U.S. adds Vatican to money-laundering 'concern' list
08 Mar 2012
Whitney Houston leaves fortune to daughter
Green Mountain falls as Starbucks takes on Keurig
Obama warns against ”loose talk” of war on Iran
Three Occupy Oakland protesters charged with hate crimes
Obama mulls giving Moscow data on missile defense
Should you sell your iPad 2 for a new iPad? - Tech Tonic
Wed, Mar 7 2012
Turkish soap operas ignite culture war in middle east revolution – Decoder
Thu, Mar 8 2012
U.S. Navy kicks off rail gun tests with a bang
Tue, Feb 28 2012
Still searching for Japan tsunami missing to ease pain
IAEA says nuclear power safer 1 year after Fukushima
Analysis & Opinion
Kahaani: Vidya’s latest is a taut thriller
Trying to move a mountain: Why Congress debates tax reform in an election year
1 of 3. Cars destroyed by the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami are seen at a devastated area in Ishinomaki, Miyagi prefecture March 9, 2012, ahead of one-year anniversary of last March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
Credit: Reuters/Toru Hanai
By Yoko Kubota
RIKUZENTAKATA, Japan |
Fri Mar 9, 2012 11:15am EST
RIKUZENTAKATA, Japan (Reuters) - Japanese police painstakingly search the river and shoreline for bodies of the missing a year after the huge earthquake and tsunami swept away large areas of the fishing town of Rikuzentakata.
Once renowned for a fine beach and seaside pine thicket nestled beneath mountains, the town is now synonymous with the destruction and widespread death wrought by the triple disaster.
What had been the town centre is mostly abandoned and dotted with piles of brown rubble and a ruined town hall . A single pine overlooking a becalmed sea is all that remains of the thicket.
The 16-metre (50-foot) wall of water that swallowed the city centre took the lives of 1,555 of its 24,240 residents. A total of 288 are still listed as missing in the town, 400 km (250 miles) northeast of Tokyo.
Police and the coast guard have for months been sending divers into the sea and draining rice paddies in the hope of finding bodies. Of late, they have responded to requests to search specific areas from families seeking closure.
"If we work hard, the deceased's spirits will hear our call. We are keeping our eyes wide open and looking carefully," said Kaname Endo, an officer from a destroyed seaside police station that lost five of its 12 staff.
On Friday, about 20 uniformed officers in gumboots and orange life vests, carrying shovels and buckets, combed muddy gutters near the port -- one of the few areas still to be searched. An excavator removed concrete slabs and swept mud out of a particularly deep gutter.
The morning search produces no results and the officers are told again they must be careful while proceeding.
Masahiko Saito, another officer, says search efforts turned up a corpse in the Kesen River in February and body parts in the fishing port. Most discoveries have been only of body parts or bones.
"Bodies might come up by the sea at a spot that was clear before, so we need to search many times," Endo said.
"It's not a matter of these bodies being dirty or smelly. We consider them as something that needs to be treated very carefully so that they can be returned to their family members."
While most of the debris that covered the city centre in the aftermath of the tsunami has been moved to designated locations, the main commercial area remains virtually deserted, dotted only by traffic lights and electricity poles.
The sea, once obscured by buildings and houses, can be seen from hundreds of meters away amid the flattened landscape. The only sounds are the roar of building equipment and the chirping of birds .
Most activity now takes place in outlying areas left intact, with residents rehoused in temporary accommodation on higher ground and supermarkets set up in make-shift buildings. Town officials conduct business from temporary quarters away from the seafront.
WRECKED TOWN HALL
At the wrecked town hall, filthy books and furniture remain strewn about and red "X" marks are spraypainted on the walls in areas where searches for bodies have taken place.
A carpet of mud and wires dangling from the ceiling illustrate the force of the waves that rammed the building, sweeping away nearly 70 officials.
Mayor Futoshi Toba, who lost his wife to the tsunami, said the city had yet to start the rebuilding phase.
"We have been working hard to meet our immediate needs up until now. But we have compiled the city's reconstruction plan," he told Reuters from the make-shift town hall.
"From the start of the new fiscal year in April, I think we may be able to start working on rebuilding the city."
But stability, he said, brought greater public demands.
"After March 11, people were happy to be able to drink a sip of water. The next day, they were able to drink more water. Then they could eat a riceball, or have some soup," he said.
"But now, we have come to a halt. It takes time to build public housing since we have to open up space in the mountains and build roads, water pipes and bring power there.
"...We have to act quickly and do things that people can see with their own eyes... We need to help those who are truly in trouble, and those who can figure out a way themselves must learn to be independent."
Recovering the bodies of lost family members is an essential step for coming to terms with their death, said Asami Maekawa, a professor of psychology at Tokyo Woman's Christian University.
"In the process of mourning and accepting death, it is necessary to face the reality of death, and a very clear example of this is to face the dead body," she said.
"If people try to keep their loved ones' memories in their mind without going through the process of facing the reality, it is not a complete process, leaving their minds vulnerable."
But facing death and rebuilding shattered lives means many thousands struggling with depression and other health issues.
About 40 percent of surveyed residents in Rikuzentakata are suspected of having sleeping disorders. Nearly 6 percent showed signs of serious psychological problems, according to a study led by Kiyomi Sakata, a professor at Iwate Medical University.
In the meantime, the dogged search for bodies goes on.
"Some people said that we should stop searching since it has been a year. But there are bodies that have not been found yet," said police officer Endo. "We will go on until we know for sure that there will be no more."
(Editing by Ron Popeski)
Related Quotes and News
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Be the first to comment on reuters.com.
Add yours using the box above.
Back to top
New York Legal
Support & Contact
Advertise With Us
Connect with Reuters
Our Flagship financial information platform incorporating Reuters Insider
An ultra-low latency infrastructure for electronic trading and data distribution
A connected approach to governance, risk and compliance
Our next generation legal research platform
Our global tax workstation
About Thomson Reuters
Thomson Reuters is the world's largest international multimedia news agency, providing investing news, world news, business news, technology news, headline news, small business news, news alerts, personal finance, stock market, and mutual funds information available on Reuters.com, video, mobile, and interactive television platforms. Thomson Reuters journalists are subject to an Editorial Handbook which requires fair presentation and disclosure of relevant interests.
NYSE and AMEX quotes delayed by at least 20 minutes. Nasdaq delayed by at least 15 minutes. For a complete list of exchanges and delays, please click here.