Japanese city scraps iconic tsunami ship

Japanese city scraps iconic tsunami ship

TOKYO - A Northern Japanese city yesterday began scrapping a 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 60m-long vessel, named the No. 18 Kyotoku-maru, according to officials in the city of Kesennuma, which was flattened in the disaster.

The scrapping operation came after nearly 70 per cent of residents said in an opinion poll that they wanted it gone.

The work is scheduled to be finished by Oct 19, officials said.

Japan's Jiji Press news agency quoted the ship's owner, Mr Katsuyuki Yanai, as saying: "I apologise for troubling disaster sufferers with the presence of the ship, but it helped show the dangers of the tsunami."

The move reverses earlier plans to preserve the boat as a monument to the quake-tsunami disaster, which killed more than 18,000 people and triggered a nuclear accident at Fukushima, the worst atomic crisis in a generation.

The stranded vessel had been swept around 500m inland on March 11, 2011, and survived a subsequent fire that engulfed the small city on Japan's north-eastern coast.

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

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