Temporary mass graves for Japan tsunami victims

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Temporary mass graves for Japan tsunami victims

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Japan has begun burying its tsunami victims this week in makeshift mass graves. The scale of the disaster means that morgues are full and crematoriums unable to cope with the dead.

On the outskirts of the port city of Higashimatsushima, graves have been dug on land that used to be used as a rubbish dump.

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By midweek several dozen bodies had been buried, with hundreds more due to be laid to rest in the coming days.

Ceremonies are as dignified as possible, but the emphasis is on speed with so many bodies to bury.

“We can’t cremate them,” said volunteer worker Masahiro Kimura, “even if we wanted to, the facilities can only process six or seven bodies a day. So we’re temporarily burying them here, then in two or three months we’ll dig them up and cremate them. That’s the plan.”

At least monks were present at the site to offer prayers for the dead. Otherwise the formalities bore little resemblance to traditional Japanese ceremonies, where an urn containing the dead person’s ashes is placed in the family grave.

The official number of dead after the earthquake and tsunami is now over 10,000 – with at least another 16,000 still missing.