Jumaat, 18 Mac 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

The Star Online: World Updates

Japan tsunami town's hilltop crematorium struggles to cope

Posted: 18 Mar 2011 07:12 AM PDT

RIKUZENTAKATA, Japan (Reuters) - Life is brutally hard for survivors of last week's earthquake and tsunami, as is the business of death.

A family looks for their belongings amongst the debris of their destroyed house in Rikuzentakata, Iwate prefecture, where the earthquake and tsunami hit last week, March 18, 2011. (REUTERS/Aly Song)

Rescue missions have ended in the small coastal town of Rikuzentakata where nearly 1,800 people are missing, many undoubtedly buried under the rubble of cars, houses, boats and factories which lie strewn around in one giant heap.

From Saturday, workers are focusing on clearing that heap.

The bodies that have been found so far have been laid out in schools and halls awaiting identification.

Those looking for loved ones submit a description to police -- hairstyle, birthmarks, moles or scars. The police cross-reference the descriptions with bodies lying in neat rows and if there is a possible match, show them to the survivors.

In Japan, the vast majority of people are cremated when they die as there is not enough land for burials. Once a body is identified, it can be cremated, but the town's small, hilltop crematorium can only cremate eight bodies a day.

The official death toll from the March 11 disaster stands at 6,539, making it Japan's worst peacetime disaster, surpassing the 1995 Kobe earthquake.

Over 10,000 people are missing, many feared dead, and about 390,000 people, many of them old, have been forced out of their homes and are fighting the snow and bitter cold to stay alive.

Other small towns in the coastal area are suffering similar problems as Rikuzentakata. In Yamadamachi, the town crematorium can cremate five bodies a day but doesn't have enough kerosene. One body needs about 50 litres.

Tomoyuki Murakami, a Rikuzentakata official, said there was no solution in sight for his town. "I am concerned. The death toll is likely to rise above 1,000," he said.

Shigeko Kimura found the body of her 80-year-old mother, who was in downtown Rizuzentakata at the time of the tsunami, in a school.

"We found her in the gym in a corner, in a spot that was easy to see," said Kimura, who was dressed casually in black and apologetic that she couldn't find the proper clothes traditionally worn at funerals out of respect for the dead.

"I was happy to see her again. I was thankful we found her in this freezing weather. She was found early and I think that was fortunate."

Kimura, 52, and six relatives were also fortunate to be able to book the hill-top crematorium where they huddled around a stove as her mother was cremated next door.

But they were unable to give her the send-off they would have liked. In Japan, each family member is given a pair of chopsticks to pick bone fragments out of the ashes and put them in an urn.

"Usually you would place the bones in an urn. But we don't have the materials," she said. "My uncle made a wooden box instead of an urn and I sewed the cloth to wrap it in."

(Editing by Nick Macfie and Miral Fahmy)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Libya airspace closed to all traffic - Eurocontrol

Posted: 18 Mar 2011 07:12 AM PDT

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Libyan airspace was closed to civil aviation on Friday, according to European air traffic control organisation Eurocontrol, after the United Nations Security Council imposed a no-fly zone over the country.

"All flight plans for traffic wishing to operate into this airspace will be suspended," Eurocontrol said in a statement.

"Therefore only those flights which are exempted from the ban, in accordance with the (U.N.) resolution, will be permitted to operate."

Eurocontrol, which monitors air navigation across 39 European countries, earlier said it had received information from Malta that Tripoli air traffic control had put out a notice saying it was not accepting any aircraft into Libyan airspace "until further notice".

However, Eurocontrol later said it did not know whether Libya had closed its own airspace.

The U.N. Security Council voted on Thursday to impose a no-fly zone over Libya and to provide help for Libyan rebels fighting to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi.

The decision is expected to involve air operations by Britain, France and the United States in the coming hours.

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop and Luke Baker; Editing by Sophie Hares)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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