Thursday, August 18, 2011

Magnitude 6.8 Earthquake Strikes Off Shore of Northeastern Japan; Money Continues Washing Ashore After Deadly March Tsunami

Japan's Meteorological Agency is reporting a quake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 struck the northeast coast of Japan.

A tsunami warning was issued by the agency for the Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures on Friday morning, but the advisory was lifted about a half hour later.

Tokyo Electric Power Co reported that there were no abnormalities and that key equipment in the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant continued operating normally while key employees positioned outside were evacuated as a precaution.

Interestingly, nearly 6 months after the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami which is thought to have killed at least 20,000 people in Northeastern Japan, survivors and volunteers have turned over to the authorities the equivalent of nearly US$80 million in cash that has washed up on shore or in the ruins of homes and apartments.
In the five months since the disaster struck, people have turned in thousands of wallets found in the debris, containing $48 million in cash.

More than 5,700 safes that washed ashore along Japan's tsunami-ravaged coast have also been hauled to police centers by volunteers and search and rescue crews. Inside those safes officials found $30 million in cash. One safe alone, contained the equivalent of $1 million.

The National Police Agency says nearly all the valuables found in the three hardest hit prefectures, have been returned to their owners.

"In most cases, the keyholes on these safes were filled with mud," said Koetsu Saiki with the Miyagi Prefectural Police. "We had to start by cutting apart the metal doors with grinders and other tools."

Determining who the safes belonged to, proved to be the easy part. Saiki says most kept bankbooks or land rights documents inside the boxes, containing their names and address. Tracking the owners down, was much more challenging.
With some police stations running out of room in their lost property areas, police are attempting to cross reference names and phone numbers documents found in safes and lockboxes with survivors of the quake and hoping to track down what shelter they were staying in.

Keeping cash at hand is fairly common practice in Japan, as many Japanese prefer to keep their money at home. A police spokesman explained that the number of boxes and safes that have been recovered seems especially high because many fishing companies in northeastern Japan also prefer to do business and pay employees in cash.

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