Solutions sought to stop erosion of Marshall Islands graves

8:43 am on 22 March 2016

Permanent seawalls are being considered by authorities in the Marshall Islands as a way to stop cemeteries from washing away due to ersion and flooding.

A king tide pushed by storm surges caused some inundation in Majuro Atoll, with water washing onto the roads and flooding homes in some areas of the capital atoll.

The aftermath of king tides on the main atoll of the Marshall Islands, Majuro, on March 10, 2016. Photo: Hilary Hosia.

Damaging king tides are common in the country of 29 narrow low-lying atolls, and recently large waves have eroded away at cemeteries, washing some graves into the sea.

In 2014, a series of large waves washed into a cemetery on Kwajalein Atoll, exposing the remains of soldiers killed in World War II.

And on 9 March, a king tide pushed by storm surges washed debris onto roads and flooded homes in the capital, Majuro.

Melvin Dacillo, a manager at the Ministry of Public Works, said that flooding damaged a cemetery on the densely populated atoll.

"When we did a rapid assessment, there are already some coffins, and skulls and bones that were exposed," said Mr Dacillo.

"[We] alerted the Ministry of Health, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), and the government to closely monitor that and be able to coordinate with the land owners and the families affected."

Mr Dacillio said it was a priority for the government to try and find a permanent solution to erosion at cemeteries, and construction of a permanent seawall was being considered as a solution.

"There's no way we can solve that erosion except to provide a permanent seawall in those areas. Either a seawall or revetment like using armour rocks. Normally they just do some back-filling of those areas and you are not utilising a proper material to do it. Over time it will just be washed."

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