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99-year-old tsunami victim identified in northeastern Japan 9 years after disaster

This image provided by Miyagi Prefectural Police shows Kiu Abe.

SENDAI -- A body found in May 2011 in the northeastern city of Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, has been identified as that of a 99-year-old woman who went missing in the tsunami that slammed into the region following the Great East Japan Earthquake two months earlier, police announced on June 29.

Police identified the victim as Kiu Abe, who lived in Ishinomaki's Minamihamacho district at the time of the quake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. Police said a fisher found her body in a cove in the city about 13 kilometers away from her home. Her body was badly damaged, making identification difficult, but based on the location where she was found, investigators were able to estimate where she had lived, and analysis of her mitochondrial DNA, which is passed along the maternal line, found matches with the genetic information of several of her relatives.

A reconstruction of her face based on her bone structure was said to be among the deciding factors in determining her identity.

Abe was living alone at the time of the disaster. Following the identification of her body, her 79-year-old nephew Kazuyuki Kanno commented, "I'm grateful that they continued to search for her (identity) even after nine years had passed (since she went missing). I'm really happy that we can hold a memorial ceremony for my aunt."

The Ishinomaki Municipal Government plans to hand over Abe's remains to her nephew on July 2. There remain seven unidentified bodies that were found in Miyagi Prefecture in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami disaster. Prefectural police are continuing to call for information on the victims.

(Japanese original by Mie Omokawa, Sendai Bureau)

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