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Saturday, May 7, 2011

Survivors comforted by retrieved family photos


SENDAI — In tsunami-hit areas, survivors and volunteers are searching for sentimental items, especially family photographs.

For some, the discovery of pictures lost in the tsunami appears to lighten their moods, as if the memories have momentarily taken them back to the time before the disaster.

Aya Hoshi, 27, from the town of Shichigahama, Miyagi Prefecture, had her home swept away by the tsunami generated by the massive March 11 earthquake. She found its remains several days later in a rice paddy, about a kilometer from its original location.

As she and her husband looked for family photos in the wreckage, they chanced upon a precious item — a little notebook containing ultrasound images of their second daughter, Namika, before she was born.

Namika, now about 1 year old, was safely evacuated to a shelter with her family members.

"I was told that her face was really distinctive even before she was born," Hoshi said with a smile as she wiped mud from the images.

The notebook with her growth record was something she wanted to show to a grownup Namika.

At a roadside in the town of Yamamoto, southern Miyagi Prefecture, Ground Self-Defense Force personnel in camouflage fatigues and helmets meticulously cleaned salvaged photo albums by hand, one page at a time. Sitting in front of them were piles of albums in plastic buckets, drenched in seawater and mud.

"I want to show these albums to their owners in the cleanest form," one of them said.

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