SENDAI (Kyodo), Apr 9 : Rescue workers and citizens have turned in to police tens of millions of yen in cash found in the rubble in mud-covered coastal areas in Japan’s northeastern region, hit hard by the killer quake and massive tsunami last month, police said Saturday.
While police and local governments are pessimistic about finding the original owners, unless the money was found with the original owners’ identifications, survivors are calling on authorities to use it to help in the reconstruction of the ravaged areas.
Under Japan’s law, people who find money can keep it if the original owners do not come forward within the three-month custodial period. When people who find it give up their claim or fail to show up to receive it within two months after the expiration of the custodial period, ownership will be transferred to prefectural governments or the owners of the property where the money was discovered.
According to the police in Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures, police stations receive everyday on average several hundred items containing cash. The areas were hit hard by the March 11 earthquake and ensuing tsunami waves.
The Miyagi prefectural police said the money has only been returned to the owners in less than 10 percent of the total cases. A senior officer of the police force said, “It is impossible to return cash unless it is found inside a wallet together with an ID.” Shigeko Sasaki, 64, who is in a shelter in Miyagi’s Minamisanriku, said, “I want anybody picking up money to donate it to disaster-hit areas instead of keeping it for themselves.”
Kenji Sato, 65, in Onagawa, also in Miyagi, said it is acceptable for people who find money and report it to the police to eventually keep it “because it means they have goodwill.” Sato said he spotted many empty bags being dumped in devastated areas.
Takehiko Yamamura, head of the Disaster Prevention System Institute, urged authorities to set new measures to handle the matter, such as extending the three-month holding period and special permission to open a safe to determine the owner.