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FROM THE ARCHIVES: Tsunami survivor's frantic search for four children and teacher

This story first appeared in The Straits Times on March 10, 2012

Published on Mar 11, 2014 5:50 PM

ISHINOMAKI (Miyagi prefecture) - The wind that blows in off the Kitakami River is bitter and there is snow in the air, but Mrs Naomi Hiratsuka does not appear to notice it. She is focused on one sole aim: to recover the bodies of four children and a teacher who are still missing one year after they were killed by the tsunami that roared up this valley from the ocean.

Mrs Hiratsuka, who is petite and soft-spoken, was reunited with the body of her own daughter, 12-year-old Koharu, on Aug 8 but has vowed not to rest until all the children of Okawa Elementary School are accounted for.

“This is what I do now,” she says, pointing at the bright yellow digger that she learnt to operate in order to look for her daughter.

“In the morning, I make breakfast for my two other children, I pack them off to school and then I come here and dig for the whole day,” she says. “I take a break for lunch and then start again. When it gets dark, I go home and make dinner for the family.”

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