Japanese Tsunami 2011

Ship that symbolised devastation of Japanese tsunami broken up

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 September, 2013, 1:46am

Workers in Japan yesterday began scrapping a large fishing boat that was swept far inland by the 2011 tsunami and became one of the most poignant symbols of the disaster.

A ceremony to bless the ship was held nearby before workers began dismantling the 60-metre vessel, said officials in the city of Kesennuma, which was flattened when huge waves rushed ashore.

The ship, named Kyotoku-maru, had become a much-visited site in the city, and a place to pay homage to the dead, who numbered more than 18,000. Some locals had wanted to preserve the ship, but others found it was a painful reminder of the horror of March 2011.

A recent opinion poll found nearly 70 per cent of locals wanted it gone, so officials ordered it be broken up and scrapped.

"I don't know if it should be scrapped or not. I have mixed feelings," a woman visitor from northern Japan told Tokyo Broadcasting System Television.

The work is scheduled to finish by October 19, officials said, while local media reported the raw materials salvaged from the ship would be recycled to part pay the 50 million yen (HK$3.9 million) dismantling bill.

"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," said Shunsuke Kumagai, an official at the city's tourist information centre.

The stranded vessel was swept around 500 metres inland by the tsunami on March 11, 2011, and survived a subsequent fire that engulfed the small city on Japan's northeast coast.

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