Japan marks third anniversary of tsunami and Fukushima meltdown

By Joe McGee, March 13, 2014

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Japan observed a moment of silence on Tuesday to mark the third anniversary of the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami disaster that killed at least 15,884 people, with a further 2,633 still listed as missing.

At the sound of tsunami alarm sirens which went off at 2:46 pm local time – the moment a 9.0-magnitude undersea quake hit in 2011 – survivors bowed their heads and joined hands in remembrance at ceremonies in towns and cities across the country.

In Tokyo, Emperor Akihito paid tribute to victims killed in the tragedy, and those struggling in its aftermath, saying, "Many still lead difficult lives in devastated areas and places that were evacuated."

The tsunami caused three nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima plant, leading to anti-nuclear protests around the country, with much of the anger directed at prime minister Shinzo Abe's government.

Despite pledging billions in reparations, the government have only managed to build 3.5 percent of the homes promised to disaster refugees who were displaced by the disaster, many of whom lived in the surroundings of the Fukushima plant.

"I'm determined to accelerate the recovery and not let this disaster fade from memory," Abe told parliament Monday. "Japan's revival won't come without the restoration of devastated areas."

Tens of thousands gathered at an anti-nuclear rally in Tokyo on Sunday, voicing anger at Abe's plan to switch on shuttered nuclear reactors.

Executive director of Greenpeace Japan Junichi Sato said that Abe was "hoping that the Japanese people and the world will forget the victims and the terrible lessons of Fukushima, hoping that they will allow the restart of old, risky reactors."

Despite a push to boost renewable energy in the resource-poor country, wind and solar power satisfy only a fraction of Japan's energy needs. Concerns have also been raised about meeting greenhouse-gas reduction targets without atomic power.

[Image via Flickr]

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