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Body of Great East Japan quake victim handed to family almost 10 years after disaster

Hideki Okuyama, right, receives the body of his mother, Natsuko Okuyama, at Ishinomaki Police Station in the city of Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, on March 10, 2021. His mother's body was found in the prefectural city of Higashi Matsushima in February this year, almost 10 years after she went missing in the Great East Japan Earthquake. (Mainichi/Daisuke Wada)
This photo shows Natsuko Okuyama, who was missing after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. (Photo courtesy of Miyagi Prefectural Police)

SENDAI -- A police station in Miyagi Prefecture handed over the body of a woman who went missing in the tsunami following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake to her family on March 10, after recovering her remains in February this year.

    The body of the woman, identified as Natsuko Okuyama, who was 61 when she went missing, was handed to her eldest son Hideki in a white casket.

    "I'm grateful to those who found my mother and to those who searched for her for 10 years," he said. "In the 10 years since my mother disappeared, there have been many times when I wanted to ask her for advice or rely on her, and the fact that she was found on the 10th anniversary of her disappearance is probably a message to me that I can make it on my own without her. I want to keep my focus ahead and live my life well."

    According to Ishinomaki Police Station in Miyagi Prefecture, Okuyama lived in Higashi Matsushima and was working at a nori dried seaweed store in the city when the earthquake struck. She was apparently caught in the tsunami while returning home, and her family reported her missing. At the time, she had been living with Hideki and her husband, who died after the earthquake.

    Almost 10 years later, on Feb. 17 this year, her body was found on the premises of a company in Higashi Matsushima. She was buried under the ground, wearing a long-sleeved shirt and sleeved apron. Almost all of her bones were still intact. She was identified through dental records and DNA analysis.

    (Japanese original by Hana Fujita, Sendai Bureau)

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