15 September 2013

Japanese 'Tsunami Ship' in Kesennuma to be dismantled:

Kesennuma - More than two years after Japan's devastating tsunami, workers have begun dismantling a stranded fishing boat that was swept inland of the northern port city of Kesennuma.

The stranded vessel was swept around 500 meters inland by the tsunami on March 11, 2011. It also survived a subsequent fire that engulfed the small city on Japan’s northeast

Since then, the blue and red vessel has rested in the center of a residential district, drawing visitors who pray and leave flowers at the site.

On Monday, workers started scrapping the large fishing boat.

Some local residents wanted to preserve the ship as a monument. The No. 18 Kyotoku-maru became a much-visited site in the city, and a place to pay homage to some of the more-than 18,000 people who perished.

However others found it a painful reminder of the horror that occurred in March 2011.

In a recent opinion poll, nearly 70 percent of locals wanted it removed, so the order was given to break up the ship and scrap it.

According to officials in the city of Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, a ceremony was first held, in which the ship was blessed, and then workers started dismantling the 60-meter vessel,

The city of Kesennumawas flattened during the tsunami in 2011, when huge waves rushed ashore.

Local television showed residents and visitors looking on as construction workers began driving stakes into the ground to erect noise baffles around the vessel.

According to a female visitor from Hokkaido, northern Japan, “I don’t know if it should be scrapped or not. I have mixed feelings.”

Yoshimi Abe, a 72 year-old housewife and Kesennuma resident, was among those who wanted to get rid of the ship.

"It's just a constant reminder of the terrible disaster," she said. "When I walk by it every morning, my heart aches."

Shunsuke Kumagai, an official at the city's tourist information center said:

“I personally feel such disaster remains should be preserved so that we can keep our memories of the tsunami alive as a bitter but important lesson.”.

“But it can’t be helped as the feeling of a majority of residents is more important than anything else,"

“However, there still are many other structures here showing the power of the tsunami. By encouraging visits to such places, we can explain the full extent of the horror of the disaster to many people.”

Reportedly the information center has organized a "disaster tour” where survivors take visitors around the area to help them understand what happened and how it is still affecting those whose lives or livelihoods were ruined.

Kesennuma is one of several destinations for people from other areas of Japan to witness the aftermath of the devastation left by the tsunami.

Another is Rikuzentakata, where the sole surviving pine tree from a forest of 70,000 has had 150 million yen of reinforcement added to prop it up and is now a must-see for visitors.

The Jiji Press news agency quoted the ship’s owner as saying: “I apologize for troubling sufferers with the presence of the ship, but it helped show the dangers of the tsunami.”

According to officials, work on the ship is scheduled to end by October 19. The raw materials salvaged will reportedly be recycled to part-pay the 50 million yen bill for dismantling the ship.

Source: digital journal. 10 September 2013

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