Cremation Delays for Victims of Noto Earthquake; Only 1 of 8 Crematoriums Open in Region

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The view of Suzu city in Ishikawa Prefecture on Wednesday

The cremation of victims of the Noto Peninsula Earthquake has been delayed in the particularly quake-hit Okunoto region of Ishikawa Prefecture, with only one furnace currently in operation. Of the eight in Suzu, Wajima and Noto, the only one open is in Noto. Many bodies are still being kept at establishments such as funeral homes.

In Suzu, 98 people have been confirmed dead as of 9 a.m. Friday. The Suzu municipal funeral facility’s power distribution board collapsed during the earthquake and its cables were severed. As well, piping that sends air and fuel to its furnace was damaged and an about 400-kilogram coffin trolley went off its rails. The facility said they had no prospect of resuming operations for now.

Juko Hirota, 63, from the city’s Horyu district, lost her 65-year-old husband and 93-year-old mother-in-law when their house collapsed. Although she contacted a funeral home on Jan. 4, she was told to wait until cremation slots were available at a crematorium outside the city.

She visited the funeral home in person to ask again and was able to book appointments to have her husband and mother-in-law cremated at a crematorium in Noto on Sunday and Monday. “I managed to book the cremation slots by asking many times,” Hirota said.

About 30 post-autopsy bodies were kept at another funeral home in Suzu as of Thursday. However, only about two bodies are carried out for cremation each day. Since dry ice used to keep the bodies cool is in short supply, the funeral home makes a round trip of over two hours to get dry ice outside the city once every two days.

The Ishikawa prefectural government asked Kanazawa and other municipalities that suffered less damage to cooperate in cremating the victims, and the bodies began being accepted to these municipalities on Jan. 5. The prefecture has procured vehicles from other prefectures to transport the bodies through the Japan Hearse Association from Wednesday. However, an official at a funeral home said, “I have no idea when all the bodies will be cremated.”