Rising sea levels wash away the remains of WWII skeletons

"There are coffins and dead people being washed away from graves, it's that serious," said Tony De Brum, foreign minister of the Marshall Islands.
By Brooks Hays   |   June 9, 2014 at 9:14 PM  |  Updated June 9, 2014 at 9:15 PM   |   Comments

SANTOS, Marshall Islands, June 9 (UPI) -- Nothing disrupts eternal sleep like the rising tides of global warming. At least that was the case for the more than two dozen skeletons dislodged from their graves in the Marshall Islands.

The islands, an isolated archipelago situated between Hawaii and the Philippines, are especially vulnerable to rising sea levels. And that much was made morbidly apparent when the rising waters unearthed the grave of at least 26 WWII soldiers.

"These last spring tides in February to April this year have caused not just inundation and flooding of communities but have also undermined regular land, so that even the dead are affected," said Tony De Brum, foreign minister of the Marshall Islands.

De Brum made the remarks while addressing attendees and reporters at the UN climate negotiations in Bonn, Germany, last week.

"There are coffins and dead people being washed away from graves, it's that serious," De Brum added. "We think they are Japanese soldiers, no broken bones, no indication of war, we think maybe suicide."

The Japanese held the islands during the early stages of WWII before they were pushed out by U.S. forces.

The Marshall Islands, which are made up of some 1,000 isles and atolls -- several of them washed away by the sea over the last few decades -- and boast a population of about 70,000, never crests seven feet in elevation, making it especially vulnerable to not just rising seas but wind and rain.

Previous erosion among the Marshall Islands has unearthed inanimate remnants of WWII, like a bomb along an airport runway. But mostly, sea level rise will erase history, no unearth it. Which is why De Brum is anxious for world leaders to come to a consensus on how to address and mitigate climate change.

De Brum said he came to Bonn to "commit to commit" -- hopeful that progress can be made at future UN climate negotiations in Lima and next year in Paris.

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