Shell of building to survive as Japan tsunami shrine

The remains of the disaster management centre in Minamisanriku Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The former disaster management centre building in Minamisanriku has been turned into a memorial to the 2011 tsunami

The rusting shell of a municipal building in Japan has been spared demolition after becoming a shrine to tsunami victims, with comparisons being made to Hiroshima's atomic bomb memorial.

Approximately 830 residents of the resort town of Minamisanriku, on Japan's north-east coast, died in the earthquake and tsunami of 11 March 2011, and locals have turned the remains of the building into a makeshift memorial, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper reports. With the centre of the town almost entirely destroyed in the disaster, people bring flowers, prayers and other offerings to the site, which was once the town's disaster management centre, and where 43 people were killed.

But there's been a heated debate over the building's future, with some people saying the remains "reminded them too much of the suffering and heartbreak", the paper says, a view backed at one time by the town authorities.

However, an expert panel has now decided to preserve the site for the time being, saying that the structure "can send a strong message that is comparable with the message for peace entrenched by Hiroshima's Atomic Bomb Dome". Miyagi prefectural government says it will take ownership of the structure, and wait until at least 2031 before letting future generations decide what to do next. Officials have noted that it took more than two decades before a final decision was made on preserving Hiroshima's now iconic memorial.

It's an idea supported by Hiroshi Harada, a former director of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. "Such relics serve as a reminder of a tragic event not only for contemporary people but also for future generations." Survivors will eventually die out, Mr Harada tells Asahi Shimbun, and without preserving a visible relic, "memories will also eventually fade away generation by generation".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption More than 800 people were killed when the 2011 tsunami hit the town of Minamisanriku

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