Alexa

As Japan mourns dead, many bodies remain missing

 A coffin is carried from a temporary morgue at a bowling alley in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Monday, March 21, 2011 as the death toll continues to ri...
 Rescue workers sift through debris during a search in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Monday, March 21, 2011 following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami...
 People check a list of the dead outside a temporary morgue at a bowling alley in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Monday, March 21, 2011 as the death toll ...
 Rescue workers sift through debris during a search in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Monday, March 21, 2011 following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami...
 A rescue worker sifts through debris during a search in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Monday, March 21, 2011 following the March 11 earthquake and tsuna...
 A woman takes photos from a bus taking residents on a tour through their devastated suburb in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, Monday, March 21, 201...
 Residents pay their last respects to a victim as a van carrying the coffin leaves a temporary morgue at a bowling alley in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture ...
 An Urban Search and Rescue officer from South Africa sifts through debris during a search of a suburb in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, Monday, Ma...
 A coffin is carried from a temporary morgue at a bowling alley in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, Monday, March 21, 2011 as the death toll continue...
 A man checks a list of the dead outside a temporary morgue at a bowling alley in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Monday, March 21, 2011 as the death toll ...
 A bus takes residents on a tour through their devastated suburb in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, Monday, March 21, 2011 following the March 11 ea...
 An official updates a list of the dead outside a temporary morgue at a bowling alley in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Monday, March 21, 2011 as the deat...
 Urban Search and Rescue officers from South Africa look at the wreckage of a bus embedded in a building during a search of a suburb in Natori, Miyagi...
 Buses take residents on a tour through their devastated suburb in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, Monday, March 21, 2011 following the March 11 ear...
 Rescue workers sift through debris during a search in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Monday, March 21, 2011 following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami...
 Residents pay their last respects to a victim as a van carrying the coffin leaves a temporary morgue at a bowling alley in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture ...
 A coffin is carried from a temporary morgue at a bowling alley in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Monday, March 21, 2011 as the death toll continues to ri...
 People wait outside a temporary morgue at a bowling alley in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Monday, March 21, 2011 as the death toll continues to rise fo...
 An Urban Search and Rescue officer from South Africa walks along a road during a search of a suburb in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, Monday, Marc...
 People come to a temporary morgue at a bowling alley in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Monday, March 21, 2011 as the death toll continues to rise followi...
 People check a list of the dead outside a temporary morgue at a bowling alley in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Monday, March 21, 2011 as the death toll ...
 A bus takes residents on a tour through their devastated suburb as rescue workers continue to search through the debris in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture,...
 The remains of a house sits amongst debris in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, Monday, March 21, 2011, following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami...
 Residents pay their last respects to a victim as a van carrying the coffin leaves a temporary morgue at a bowling alley in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture ...
 Family members watch Japan Ground Self-Defense Force personnel search for remains of a fellow family member in their home in Natori, Miyagi Prefectur...
 A fishing boat sits amongst debris of houses and cars in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, Monday, March 21, 2011, following the March 11 earthquake ...
 An officer in the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force hands personal belongings to a woman as they search for the remains of a fellow family member in th...
 Japan Ground Self-Defense Force personal pause during a search in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, Monday, March 21, 2011, following the March 11 ea...
 Family members check through some personal belongings retrieved from their home in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, Monday, March 21, 2011, followin...
 Family members watch Japan Ground Self Defense Force personnel search for remains of a fellow family member in their home in Natori, Miyagi Prefectur...
 Family members watch Japan Ground Self-Defense Force personnel search for remains of a fellow family member in their home in Natori, Miyagi Prefectur...

Japan Earthquake

A coffin is carried from a temporary morgue at a bowling alley in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Monday, March 21, 2011 as the death toll continues to ri...

Japan Earthquake

Rescue workers sift through debris during a search in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Monday, March 21, 2011 following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami...

Japan Earthquake

People check a list of the dead outside a temporary morgue at a bowling alley in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Monday, March 21, 2011 as the death toll ...

Japan Earthquake

Rescue workers sift through debris during a search in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Monday, March 21, 2011 following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami...

Japan Earthquake

A rescue worker sifts through debris during a search in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Monday, March 21, 2011 following the March 11 earthquake and tsuna...

Japan Earthquake

A woman takes photos from a bus taking residents on a tour through their devastated suburb in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, Monday, March 21, 201...

Japan Earthquake

Residents pay their last respects to a victim as a van carrying the coffin leaves a temporary morgue at a bowling alley in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture ...

Japan Earthquake

An Urban Search and Rescue officer from South Africa sifts through debris during a search of a suburb in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, Monday, Ma...

Japan Earthquake

A coffin is carried from a temporary morgue at a bowling alley in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, Monday, March 21, 2011 as the death toll continue...

Japan Earthquake

A man checks a list of the dead outside a temporary morgue at a bowling alley in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Monday, March 21, 2011 as the death toll ...

Japan Earthquake

A bus takes residents on a tour through their devastated suburb in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, Monday, March 21, 2011 following the March 11 ea...

Japan Earthquake

An official updates a list of the dead outside a temporary morgue at a bowling alley in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Monday, March 21, 2011 as the deat...

Japan Earthquake

Urban Search and Rescue officers from South Africa look at the wreckage of a bus embedded in a building during a search of a suburb in Natori, Miyagi...

Japan Earthquake

Buses take residents on a tour through their devastated suburb in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, Monday, March 21, 2011 following the March 11 ear...

Japan Earthquake

Rescue workers sift through debris during a search in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Monday, March 21, 2011 following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami...

Japan Earthquake

Residents pay their last respects to a victim as a van carrying the coffin leaves a temporary morgue at a bowling alley in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture ...

Japan Earthquake

A coffin is carried from a temporary morgue at a bowling alley in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Monday, March 21, 2011 as the death toll continues to ri...

Japan Earthquake

People wait outside a temporary morgue at a bowling alley in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Monday, March 21, 2011 as the death toll continues to rise fo...

Japan Earthquake

An Urban Search and Rescue officer from South Africa walks along a road during a search of a suburb in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, Monday, Marc...

Japan Earthquake

People come to a temporary morgue at a bowling alley in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Monday, March 21, 2011 as the death toll continues to rise followi...

Japan Earthquake

People check a list of the dead outside a temporary morgue at a bowling alley in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Monday, March 21, 2011 as the death toll ...

Japan Earthquake

A bus takes residents on a tour through their devastated suburb as rescue workers continue to search through the debris in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture,...

Japan Earthquake

The remains of a house sits amongst debris in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, Monday, March 21, 2011, following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami...

APTOPIX Japan Earthquake

Residents pay their last respects to a victim as a van carrying the coffin leaves a temporary morgue at a bowling alley in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture ...

Japan Earthquake

Family members watch Japan Ground Self-Defense Force personnel search for remains of a fellow family member in their home in Natori, Miyagi Prefectur...

APTOPIX Japan Earthquake

A fishing boat sits amongst debris of houses and cars in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, Monday, March 21, 2011, following the March 11 earthquake ...

Japan Earthquake

An officer in the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force hands personal belongings to a woman as they search for the remains of a fellow family member in th...

Japan Earthquake

Japan Ground Self-Defense Force personal pause during a search in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, Monday, March 21, 2011, following the March 11 ea...

Japan Earthquake

Family members check through some personal belongings retrieved from their home in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, Monday, March 21, 2011, followin...

Japan Earthquake

Family members watch Japan Ground Self Defense Force personnel search for remains of a fellow family member in their home in Natori, Miyagi Prefectur...

Japan Earthquake

Family members watch Japan Ground Self-Defense Force personnel search for remains of a fellow family member in their home in Natori, Miyagi Prefectur...

Those in search of the dead go to Natori's bowling alley, walking up the cracked concrete steps and through the glass door. "Enjoy Coca-Cola," says a neon sign out front.
They go under the two-story painting of the bowling ball crashing into giant pins. They walk past the lists of the dead and the descriptions of the bodies yet to be identified. Inside, they step slowly through the makeshift morgue, peering into satin-wrapped coffins arranged in neat rows where bowlers so recently faced off.
They rarely find the people they seek.
If a bowling alley is no place to comes to terms with death, there is another pain for many along northeast Japan's tsunami-battered coast, a pain less specific but perhaps just as agonizing: the pain of finding no body at all.
"There should be more bodies," said Marius Du Toit, a South African search and rescue team leader. His crew was walking through the shattered remnants of hundreds of houses in the devastated port city of Natori, turning over rubble in search of corpses.
Eleven days after the tsunami slammed into the coast, obliterating entire villages, more than 9,000 bodies have been found _ but some 13,800 people are still missing. The police estimate more than 15,000 deaths are likely just in Miyagi, the province that includes Natori.
Some of the missing will turn up elsewhere. They'll be in hospitals, or staying with relatives, or will have been on vacation. More corpses will be found too as rescue operations shift to the grim work of cleanup, digging through tons of rubble and muck.
Increasingly, though, officials and rescue teams believe many people will never be found.
A few days ago, rescuers were finding up to 50 bodies daily around here. Local officials were running out of body bags. Now, it's down to a couple of bodies a day. "We don't know where they are," Du Toit said.
Isoo Sasaki, the mayor of Natori, is from Yoriage, the neighborhood where Du Toit was searching. It was the old part of town, dating back centuries, from before the seaside fishing village became a modern city of 73,000.
"It is so terrible to find the body of a loved one," Sasaki said in his office, where he has been sleeping on the floor since one of the largest earthquakes in recorded history spawned the tsunami. "But perhaps those families are also lucky. Many people will not find a body at all."
As of Monday, 315 bodies had been identified in Natori, and well over 1,000 people were missing.
Much of Yoriage has been scrubbed from the Earth, with concrete foundations often all that remains.
Where the rubble has piled up, it is an incomprehensible jumble of splintered homes, fishing boats and smashed and shattered cars. One house is upside down. A bus is wrapped around the second floor of another. Concrete poles reinforced with steel are twisted like licorice strings.
Amid the devastation, it's the occasional signs of normalcy that look obscene: the little boy's underpants hung out to dry on a second-floor balcony, the wind chime that rings in the breeze.
If history is any guide, thousands of bodies will never be found. Of the 164,000 people who died in Indonesia in the December 2004 tsunami, 37,000 simply disappeared, their bodies presumably washed out to sea.
Iskandar, a disaster management official in Aceh province, spent more than a year struggling to compile an accurate tally of his country's dead and missing. Like many Indonesians, he goes by only one name. He insisted that many Japanese victims could still be found: "It's still too early to lose hope."
So it is for many survivors, who cannot yet bear to think that their friends or relatives might be dead.
Eriko Sato, a 23-year-old acupuncturist, was searching for a friend over the weekend in the village of Kesennuma, repeating her hope over and over again.
"She's alive, she's alive, she's alive," Sato said. "If I stop saying it or thinking it, maybe the worst will happen."
Eventually, though, the survivors of Natori find their way to Airport Bowling, first to read through the descriptions of the bodies: "anchor tattoo on upper left arm" or "short black haircut in a burgundy sweater."
Then they go inside, wondering if they will find what they fear most to see. Or if they'll never find it at all.
___
Associated Press writers Foster Klug in Kesennuma and Ali Kotarumalos in Jakarta contributed to this report.