9 Jun 2014

Soldiers remains exposed by climate change in Marshalls

2:31 pm on 9 June 2014

The Marshall Islands Foreign Minister says rising sea levels have exposed the skeletal remains of World War Two soldiers from their graves.

Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands

Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands Photo: RNZI/Walter Zweifel

Tony de Brum told a United Nations climate change meeting in Germany the exposure of 26 skeletons is an example of threats to the existence of the islands that are only 2 metres above sea level at their highest.

Our correspondent in the Marshall Islands, Giff Johnson, says local residents on a small island on Kwajalein Atoll found the mass grave after recent storms.

When they discovered some bones had become visible. And obviously this was from ongoing costal erosion. The grave site had been somewhat near the water. So then officials went in and exhumed the remains and they were identified as Japanese in origin.

Giff Johnson says erosion has also seen graves wash into the water in Majuro and with ongoing sea level rises these sorts of things will be happening more regularly.