Friday, August 26, 2011

$30mil cash return to tsunami victims in Japan

Japanese find millions in lost tsunami cash - and return it

Photo by: Vincent Yu / AP
Japan Self-Defense Force personnel stand near some safes they retrieved from houses destroyed by the tsunami in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan in a photo taken on April 7, 2011.

By Arata Yamamoto, NBC News Producer

TOKYO – If disaster struck, and millions of dollars in cash turned up, do you think it would be returned to its rightful owners?

In Japan, it was.

During the four months since the giant tsunami struck Japan's northern coast, more than 5,700 safes containing approximately $30 million has been recovered from the three hardest hit prefectures, Japan’s National Police
Agency recently announced.

Remarkably – since residents of the tsunami zone have scattered across the country and even the world – 96 percent, or nearly $29.6 million in cash, has already been returned to its rightful owners, or if authorities feared the owner had died in the disaster, their closest relative.
Detective job to find rightful owners 
The majority of the safes recovered in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima were collected by Japan’s Self Defense Force, police, and volunteers while combing through destroyed homes and buildings and clearing debris left behind by the devastating wave; some individuals also came forward with lost valuables. Masao Sasaki, with the Iwate prefectural police, said that determining who the money belonged to and then actually finding them proved to be a great challenge and often involved excruciating detective work.

"You can just imagine the difficult work involved in tracking down the owners,” Sasaki said. "In some cases where the owner was thought to have perished, we had to find the closest kin who could have been anywhere inside or outside Iwate.

Thankfully, many of the safes also held bank books, certificates of land rights, name chops (traditional stamps used in lieu of signatures on personal documents) or some other form of identification. But because they were drenched in mud and water, each item often had to be carefully cleaned and dried, at times using a shirt iron in order to extract useful clues.

"It was important to be able to return these items properly cleaned, but our first and utmost priority was to find the owners and return their belongings as quickly as possible," said Sasaki.Asked how they were able to return 91 percent of the lost valuables, Sasaki said it was simply the laborious work and perseverance of the prefecture’s officers.

According to Sato, even though it took four months, the police have pretty much completed their task: they have already returned 96 percent of the $7.2 million found in some 900 safe boxes.And in the Miyagi prefecture they had an even greater rate of return. More than 2,400 safes were collected that contained approximately $13.5 million –amazingly 99 percent of that has been returned to its owners or closest kin.

(Source: Extracted from MSNBC News dated 24th August 2011)

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