The Japanese Turn in $78 Million That Belongs to Tsunami Victims

August 18, 2011

The Japanese earthquake and tsunami was a horrible event that will have repercussions for years. The clean-up from the disaster goes on to this day, as families struggle to rebuild their lives. Luckily, one thing keeps turning up in the rubble: their cash.

Japanese rescue workers, volunteers, and even citizens who stumble over it have so far returned $78 million in cold, hard cash that they've found. Over 5,700 safes have washed ashore in the wake of the tsunami, nearly a thousand safes a month, and local police stations are still receiving several each day. The contents range from cash to valuable to land documents to family photos. Even more wallets and purses are still being found and turned in, as well.

Why is there so much cash floating around out there? The tsunami hit a largely rural area of Japan that mostly relies on the fishing industry. Fishing companies and fisherman alike prefer to work on a cash basis, so a lot of money was sucked into the ocean in the wake of the tsunami.

Figuring out who owns the safes hasn't been easy: in fact local police stations have had professional safe repairmen on hand to crack open the safes and figure out who they belong to. So far, most safes go back to their grateful owners. And they probably sleep better at night, knowing no matter what happens, their countrymen have their back.

Photo: Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images