Coast guard launches new search for tsunami remains

Kyodo

About 60 regional coast guardsmen started an intensive search Saturday for the remains of March 2011 disaster victims off Miyagi Prefecture, almost 1½ years after they perished in the tsunami.

The Miyagi Coast Guard Office mobilized patrol boats and helicopters to hunt for the remains of 1,426 locals who as of Wednesday remained officially listed as missing by the prefecture.

At the request of residents in Natori, coast guardsmen dived in spots off the district of Yuriage to check for vehicles or vessels on the seafloor, which is covered by chunks of concrete swept into the sea when the tsunami destroyed a wharf.

“We are no less committed to the search than during the immediate aftermath of the disasters. All divers are hoping to recover as many bodies as possible so they can be returned to their families,” said Yuichi Ito, a 35-year-old guardsman who took part in the search.

In the city of Ishinomaki, meanwhile, a ceremony was held to unveil a cenotaph erected for the 392 members of Miyagi’s prefectural fisheries cooperative who died in the catastrophe.

Around 110 people from the cooperative and officials from the farm ministry’s Fisheries Agency attended the event, which was held at the group’s headquarters.

“We should not forget our 392 comrades who lost their lives,” said Shinetsu Kikuchi, chairman of the cooperative’s management committee. In addition, “we are in a critical phase of reconstruction and would like to steadily move forward.”

Construction of the 1 by 3 meter rectangular cenotaph, also intended as a symbol of the Tohoku region’s recovery, was funded by donations from fishermen nationwide, according to the cooperative.