WORLD NEWS

Japan Marks 10th Disaster Anniversary But Still Recovering

Mar 10, 2021, 9:34 PM
A woman touches a name on a newly-unveiled memorial bearing the names of the 3173 people who were k...
A woman touches a name on a newly-unveiled memorial bearing the names of the 3173 people who were killed during the 2011 earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2021 in Ishinomaki, Japan. Japan will today observe the 10th anniversary of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, tsunami and triple nuclear meltdown in which almost 16,000 were killed and hundreds of thousands made homeless. The magnitude 9.0 earthquake was one of the most powerful ever recorded. It triggered tsunami waves up to 40.5 meters high that travelled at 700km/h and surged up to 10km inland destroying entire towns. It moved Japans main island of Honshu 2.4m east, shifted the Earth on its axis by estimates of between 10cm and 25cm and increased the planets rotational speed by 1.8 microseconds per day. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
(Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

TOKYO (AP) — Japan is marking the 10th anniversary Thursday of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster that hit the northeastern region, where many survivors’ lives are still on hold.

People, some carrying bouquets, walked to the coast to pray for relatives and friends washed away by the tsunami. Emperor Naruhito and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga are scheduled to observe a moment of silence at a memorial service later Thursday.

The magnitude 9.0 quake that struck on March 11, 2011, was one of the biggest temblors on record and set off a massive tsunami that swept far inland, destroying towns and causing meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. More than 18,000 people died in the triple disaster and nearly half a million people were displaced.

Ten years later, more than 40,000 people are still unable to return home, most of them from Fukushima, where areas near the wrecked plant are still off-limits due to radioactive contamination.

Roads, train lines, and other key infrastructure and housing have mostly been completed at the cost of more than 30 trillion yen ($280 billion), but land remains empty in coastal towns further north in Miyagi and Iwate prefectures, where existing population losses were accelerated by the disaster.

Fukushima has fallen behind in the recovery efforts because of the radiation impact, with 2.4% of the prefectural land still no-go zones near the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The decommissioning of its melted reactors is an unprecedented challenge, with some questioning after 10 years of work whether it can be done at all.

Thursday’s ceremony will be the last national commemoration for the 2011 disaster organized by the government. It comes just two weeks before the Olympic torch run begins from Fukushima ahead of the delayed Tokyo Summer Games in July.

Suga has said the Olympics will showcase Japan’s recovery from the disaster and will be proof of human victory against the coronavirus pandemic, but some disaster survivors say their recovery is still only half done.

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Japan Marks 10th Disaster Anniversary But Still Recovering