Japan Pays Tribute to Victims of 2011 Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Disaster | Earthquake News

Japan pays tribute to the nearly 20,000 victims of a powerful earthquake and tsunami that hit the northeast of the country 10 years ago, destroying cities and triggering the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl .

Emperor Naruhito and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga were due to join a memorial for the dead at a memorial ceremony in Tokyo on Thursday, while several other public and private events were planned in northeast Japan.

A minute of silence will be marked across the country at 2:46 p.m. local time (5:46 a.m. GMT), precisely when the 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck on March 11, 2011.

The onslaught of waves triggered by the quake crashed on the northeast coast, crippling the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. More than 160,000 residents were forced to evacuate as radiation spread through the air.

The disaster left Tohoku survivors struggling to overcome the grief of losing families and entire communities to the 15-meter-high wave.

As the sun rose in the town of Hisanohama on Thursday, Toshio Kumaki, 78, walked along a giant seawall built after the tsunami.

“I come here every morning for a walk, but it is a special day,” he told AFP news agency, clutching his hands together and praying towards the Sunrise.

About 60 people were killed in Ohisa, one of the neighborhoods next to the beach, when the tsunami washed up, destroying everything but a small shrine.

Kumaki’s eyes filled with tears as he remembered the disaster. “It was really scary.”

The government spent around $ 300 billion to rebuild the tsunami-devastated region, but areas around the Fukushima plant remain closed, concerns about radiation levels persist, and many of those who left have settled elsewhere. .

Decommissioning the crippled plant will take decades and billions of dollars.

About 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of the Fukushima plant, in the gritty coastal town of Iwaki that has since become a hub for nuclear dismantling workers, restaurant owner Atsushi Niizuma prayed to his slain mother. in the tsunami.

“I want to tell my mother that my children, who were all close to her, are doing well. I came here to thank her that our family lives in safety, ”the 47-year-old told Reuters news agency.

Before leaving for work, he quietly prayed at a shrine with sculptures named after his mother, Mitsuko, and 65 others who died in the earthquake.

On the day of the disaster, Mitsuko was looking after his children. The children rushed into a car. Mitsuko was swept away by the waves as she returned home to collect her belongings. It took a month to recover his body.

Local residents offer prayers to earthquake and tsunami victims on the shores of Abrahama District in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, March 11, 2021 [Jiji Press/ AFP]
Firefighters search for the remains of people missing after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Namie, Fukushima prefecture, Japan on March 11, 2021 [File: Kim Kyung-Hoon/ Reuters]

Tributes and condolences also poured in from around the world, everyone from United Nations Secretary Antonio Guterres to singer Lady Gaga offering their thoughts on the anniversary.

“Offering his condolences to those who continue to mourn the loss of loved ones,” Guterres said, adding that he also had in mind “those who remain displaced, unable to return home for safety reasons”.

In this regard, he said he welcomed the findings of a UN report released Tuesday by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, which concluded that no adverse effects on the health of residents. of Fukushima had been found which could be directly attributed to radiation exposure.

Lady Gaga said the resilience of the Japanese people offers hope in the global fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

“Over the years, seeing and hearing about the vast takeover of your beautiful cities, I have so much respect for the Japanese people for your strength, kindness and love for each other,” said said the American singer and actress in a video posted on her Twitter account.

“It gives hope to people now fighting the COVID pandemic around the world.”

Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, also offered a message of support.

“The United States stands in solidarity with Japan in remembering those lost and still missing, and in honoring the resilience of the Japanese people who have rebuilt their homes, livelihoods and communities,” he said. declared.

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