A man’s painstaking search over nearly six years has finally uncovered remains of his 7-year-old daughter who disappeared in the 2011 tsunami.
But the discovery has not brought closure for the father, Norio Kimura, who plans to keep sifting through the debris on the coast of this town in the shadow of the ruined Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
“I am glad, but only small parts of her have been recovered,” said Kimura, 51. “I will continue my search until I find everything.”
A breakthrough in his private search for daughter Yuna came on Dec. 9, when a volunteer found a scarf she was wearing on the day the tsunami struck. It was near the coast only a few hundred meters from where Kimura’s home once stood in Okuma.
A further search of the area uncovered parts of neck and jaw bones among the tsunami debris.
A DNA test conducted by Fukushima prefectural police showed the remains were of Yuna. Kimura was informed of the test result on Dec. 22.
However, he said he still has no intention of submitting a document to officially certify her death until the rest of her body is found.
Yuna was the last resident of Okuma officially listed as missing.
Kimura’s house was located about 4 kilometers south of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and 100 meters from the coast. The tsunami spawned by the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011, destroyed the home and swept away Yuna, Kimura’s wife, Miyuki, then 37, and his father, Wataro, then 77.
The bodies of Miyuki and Wataro were recovered that year. But Yuna remained missing.
The meltdowns at the nuclear plant forced Kimura to evacuate from Okuma and halt his search for Yuna.
Although the Self-Defense Forces, firefighters, police and volunteers conducted searches along the coast of the Tohoku region, radioactive fallout prevented extensive checks around Okuma in the early days of the recovery effort.
Most parts of the town are still located in the government-designated “difficult-to-return zone” because of high radiation levels. Access is limited to former residents, but only for short periods.
Kimura resumed his personal search for Yuna at the end of 2011, when the government allowed those limited-period returns to Okuma.
After settling in Hakuba, Nagano Prefecture, with his mother and surviving daughter, Kimura frequently made round trips of about 1,000 kilometers in his search for Yuna. He often wore protective clothing against radiation in his endeavor.
Yuna’s remains were found in an area where Kimura discovered a shoe in June 2012 that his daughter was wearing on the day of the disaster.
Kimura said he intends to increase his trips to Okuma and focus his search on the area where Yuna’s bones were discovered.
“I do hold anger toward TEPCO, which caused the nuclear crisis, and the government, which was not committed enough to the body-recovery effort,” Kimura said. “I am mortified that it took nearly six years to find her.”
Sunday 26 December 2016