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Rising sea levels expose Pacific war graves

Officials from the Marshall Islands say remains, thought to be of Japanese soldiers, were disturbed after high tides.

Last updated: 07 Jun 2014 12:10
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The remains were washed up by high tides that battered the islands from February to April [AFP]

Rising sea levels have disturbed the graves of at least 26 soldiers buried during World War Two, the foreign minister of the Marshall Islands has said at UN climate change talks in Bonn, Germany.

Tony de Brum blamed climate change for rising sea levels that are threatening the existence of the islands, which have an elevation of only two metres at their highest.

"There are coffins and dead people being washed away from graves," de Brum told journalists on Friday on the sidelines of the talks, the Reuters news agency reported. "We think they are Japanese soldiers."

The skeletons were found on Santo Island after high tides battered the archipelago from February to April, the foreign minister said, adding that more may be found.

Unexploded bombs and other military equipment have also washed up in recent months.

Representatives of about 170 countries are meeting in Bonn to lay the foundations of a deal to tackle climate change.

Climate scientists say global warming has raised average world sea levels by about 0.19 metres in the past century, aggravating the impact of storm surges and tides.

A UN study published on Thursday said changes in Pacific wind current meant sea levels in the region had risen faster than the world average since the 1990s.

Paris summit

The Bonn summit will be followed by a series of meetings, which aim to reach an accord by December 2015 at talks in Paris.

Officials from some countries attending the talks in Germany urged delegates to tackle the issue sooner.

Peruvian Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal said: "This train is moving and we cannot wait until Paris to get onboard," the AFP news agency reported.

China's top negotiator, Xie Zhenhua, warned against a repeat of the Copenhagen Summit in 2009, which failed to reach agreement on how to tackle climate change.

The Paris agreement is meant to set the cap on years of haggling among the 195 parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Taking effect from 2020, the pact must curb heat-trapping emissions from fossil fuels that are damaging the Earth's fragile climate, amplifying risks from drought, flood, storms and rising seas.

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