Japan's Car Owners Search In Huge 'Graveyards' Japan's tsunami left behind thousands of demolished cars, which cities need to get rid of in order to start clean-up efforts. Owners are searching for their abandoned vehicles in sprawling lots along the coastline.
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Japan's Car Owners Search In Huge 'Graveyards'

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Japan's Car Owners Search In Huge 'Graveyards'

Japan's Car Owners Search In Huge 'Graveyards'

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

NPR's John Burnett reports on a reunion between a man and the car he left behind.

(SOUNDBITE OF CONSTRUCTION CRANE)

JOHN BURNETT: A construction crane drags a crumpled black Nissan down the street of a pulverized port city. A look of recognition flashes on the face of a man we're interviewing, and he runs over to the wreck.

BURNETT: My car. My car.

BURNETT: He reaches in a jagged hole torn in the roof of his vehicle.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BURNETT: He pulls out his wallet, a parking ticket and a Shinto good luck charm, and pockets them with a resigned smile. Last month was his final car payment.

BURNETT: (Speaking in Japanese)

BURNETT: The vehicles are a frightful sight. They weren't merely swamped by rising water, like so many cars in New Orleans after Katrina. They were seized by the onrushing water, then tossed and pummeled - wheels torn off, bodies ripped open as though by a rampaging monster.

NORRIS: (Speaking Japanese)

BURNETT: All day long, people like Mitsuyuki Yagi come to the destroyed car lots, like this one on the outskirts of Miyako City. Yagi watched, terrified, from the roof of the bank building where he works, as the black tide swept away people, houses, and all the cars in the bank parking lot. If he can find his white Toyota sedan, he wants to retrieve his house keys and computer - nothing else.

NORRIS: (Speaking Japanese)

BURNETT: Filing insurance claims is generally a waste of time because so few Japanese take out natural-disaster coverage for their autos - this according to an insurance company employee who happens to be at the wrecked car lot, looking for a company car that was washed away.

BURNETT: (Speaking Japanese)

BURNETT: To keep things in perspective, these ruined vehicles are far down the list of worries for the people of the northeastern coast. They have dead loved ones to locate and cremate; houses and businesses to rebuild. But finding their car has become a ritual to restore some semblance of order to their lives. An old fellow in a cap and face mask walks up to a smashed, green jeep in the Miyako lot.

BURNETT: My car.

BURNETT: John Burnett, NPR News, in northern Japan.

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