One of the great statistical mysteries that persist several years after a natural disaster is the figure that appears without fail each month in columns representing the number of people that are still missing.

Almost three years after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami devastated coastal regions in Tohoku on March 11, 2011, a total of 2,636 people remain missing as of February, statistics released by the National Police Agency show. More than 15,800 were killed.

While most relatives of those still missing have probably given up hope by now, a few hardy volunteer groups continue in their search to return the deceased to their loved ones.