SENDAI – Three and a half years after 3/11, signs of the disasters are still visible, and the bodies of 88 victims in the three hardest-hit prefectures remain unidentified.
Police and other authorities continue to search for the missing, while many survivors remain stuck in temporary housing and other makeshift abodes, struggling to recover from the disasters that left 15,889 people dead as of Wednesday.
Prefectural police in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures said that, as of Thursday, 88 bodies had yet to be identified. Many are not even included in the death toll because they lack heads.
National Police Agency data made available Thursday said 2,597 people in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima remain unaccounted for.
On Thursday, 30 police officers carried out a search along the Pacific coast in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture.
In the tsunami-hit town of Yamada in Iwate, a small prefabricated cabin stands in the town hall’s parking lot. Inside a dimly lit room, 18 boxes containing unidentified remains are lined up on a shelf.
Many people attended a memorial ceremony on March 11 held at the hall next to the town office, but few came to the cabin on that day, said town official Yoshinobu Nakaya.
The bodies are expected to be transferred to a charnel house to be built in a town-managed cemetery before next March.
The remains of some victims are being stored outside of morgues.
In Otsuchi, Iwate Prefecture, 77 boxes containing bodies or parts of the disaster victims are stored in three temples.
Yoshihiro Konno, a Miyagi Prefectural Police coroner, said the loss of dental records and other personal data when clinics and homes were swept away by tsunami has made the task of identification harder.