TOKYO, April 7 (UPI) -- Lockers or safes of victims swept away in Japan's March 11 tsunami disaster are turning up at other sites, making it difficult to find their rightful owners.
In Iwate Prefecture, one of the worst hit by the quake-tsunami, police in Ofunato are stuck with more than 500 lockers, many rusted and bent out of shape, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported.
"Safe owners probably can't come to the police station as their cars may have been swept away," deputy police chief Katsunori Tsuda told the newspaper. "Even if we have sufficient information to identify the owners of the safes, we're often unable to contact them."
A 55-year-old woman, who visited another police station said: "There are so many safes and most are either rusty or (have) lost their original shape. I have no idea which one is ours." She gave up after trying her key in the locks of nearly 200 lockers at the police station, the report said.
Besides the lockers, police also are holding a number of other valuable items including cash registers, bank passbooks and jewelry. However, police say they have difficulty confirming whether the claimants are rightful owners.
If an owner does not make a claim within three months of an article being found, it will become the property of the prefecture.
"We can't pry open the safes to check the contents at our own discretion, and it would be extremely cruel to hand them" to the government as they are needed more by the victims, a prefectural official said, Yomiuri reported.