A LONE pine tree which became a symbol of hope in disaster-hit Japan after surviving the March 11 tsunami is dying, according to reports.
The solitary pine was the only tree out of a forest of 70,000 to survive the impact of powerful tsunami waves as they swept across Takata Matsubara forest in Rikuzentakata, northeast Japan.
The tree, which is 30m tall, subsequently became renowned nationwide as a poignant symbol of the nation's tenacity in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami.
However, conservationists have now concluded that efforts to save the single tree are futile as its roots are heavily rotted by seawater, according to the Daily Yomiuri newspaper.
Local civic groups have been working over the past nine months to save the tree using a variety of methods, ranging from putting up protective iron sheeting to pumping seawater out of the surrounding soil.
Despite such efforts, the Japan Greenery Research and Development Centre has concluded that it is not possible to save the tree due to its inability to receive nutrients through its rotting roots.
Yoshihisa Suzuki, head of the group, told the Daily Yomiuri: "The tree has encouraged us to live positively. I'm very sorry we can't do anything more to save it."
Instead, there are now hopes that a graft of the tree can be grown and planted in the same tsunami-hit forest Takata Matsubara.
The coastal city Rikuzentakata in Iwate prefecture was among the hardest hit communities in the March 11 tsunami, losing close to 10 per cent of its population and 80 per cent of its businesses.
As many as 49 local firefighters were killed after attempting to close the city's harbour gates manually as the tsunami approached the coastline, while 68 municipal workers – a third of the city's municipal office workforce – also lost their lives.
Once famed for its scenic pine forests along the coastline, the solitary tree left standing after March 11 swiftly became a national symbol of hope and survival.