The remains of at least 26 Japanese soldiers from World War II have been washed away on the Marshall Islands due to rising sea levesl in the Pacific Ocean, media reports said Friday, citing a minister of the Republic of the Marshall Islands.
Tony de Brum, the minister of foreign affairs for the Islands reportedly made the announcement while speaking at the U.N. climate change conference in Bonn, Germany, on the day Europe commemorated the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Normandy. The high tides of the Pacific Ocean forced open a grave that contained the skeletons of at least 26 soldiers, probably from Japan, giving rise to concerns over the fate of the low-lying island country located in the northern Pacific Ocean, which is now reportedly one of the most vulnerable locations to changes in sea level caused by global warming.
“There are coffins and dead people being washed away from graves, it’s that serious,” Brum reportedly said. “Tides have caused not just inundation and flooding of communities where people live but have also done severe damage in undermining regular land so that even the dead are affected.”
The Marshall Islands were used as a base by the Japanese Navy during World War II until they were defeated by the U.S. forces. The Islands are comprised of more than 1,000 individual islands and are home to around 70,000 people.
According to reports, the increase in sea level in the remote archipelago has not just threatened their defense in recent months (by washing up unexploded bomb and military equipments), but has destroyed roads as salt makes the lands infertile.
Several small islands including Boken have been washed away by the ocean, Brum reportedly said.
“The atoll ecosystem is very fragile, so that if you have a severe inundation of salt ... recovery is probably doubtful,” he said, according to Bloomberg. Then “the island loses all its vegetation and becomes very susceptible to wind and tides and more winds, and the next thing you know it’s not there anymore.”