Buddhist service for Japan's tsunami dead

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The Independent Online

Buddhist priests burned incense and chanted yesterday for Japan's tsunami victims, marking the 49th day since the disaster and closing the period when the dead were believed to be wandering restlessly through destroyed home towns.

About 1,200 mourners attended a ceremony organised by 170 priests in the north-eastern town of Soma, where much of the coast remains buried in debris from the 11 March earthquake and tsunami.

On an emotional occasion many carried framed photographs of lost family and friends. Some clutched wooden tablets showing Buddhist names assigned to the dead to help them find their way into their next phase of existence.

The disaster is believed to have killed nearly 26,000 people, although only about 14,500 bodies have been found. Many swept out to sea may never be found.