Japan Launching Massive Recovery Mission
Soldiers aim to retrieve bodies from land and sea
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 24, 2011 9:28 AM CDT
A wooden cross stands tall among the rubble at a place where a church once stood at Kesennuma, a port town smashed by a March 11 earthquake and tsunami, in northeastern Japan, on Sunday April 24, 2011.   (AP Photo/Kyodo News)

(Newser) – Japan will begin an extensive recovery mission tomorrow, sending almost 25,000 soldiers into the disaster zone to look for the bodies of last month’s earthquake and tsunami victims. About 14,300 people are confirmed dead, but another 12,000 are still missing and presumed killed, the AP reports. Their bodies were likely swept out to sea or buried under rubble. The soldiers—along with 90 helicopters and planes, 50 boats, 100 divers, and police, coast guard, and US troops—will search on land and sea.

While cleanup crews have already recovered some remains, this will be a much more extensive, two-day military operation, a Defense Ministry spokesperson says. Search efforts have been complicated by the decomposition of corpses, including some that are already skeletons. "You have to be very careful in touching the bodies because they quickly disintegrate," the spokesperson says. Veterinarians will also be sent into the evacuation zone surrounding the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant to check on the thousands of abandoned farm animals there, and will perhaps euthanize the ones that are dying.