Grieving Japan Marks Tsunami Anniversary

March 11, 2012 by staff 

Grieving Japan Marks Tsunami Anniversary, Japan fell silent on Sunday to honour the 19,000 people killed a year ago when a huge earthquake sent a tsunami barrelling into the coast, sparking a nuclear crisis at Fukushima.

Tearful families gathered in the still shell-shocked towns and villages across the country’s northeast to remember those lost when the towering tsunami smashed ashore.

At 2.46pm (1646 AEDT) much of the nation paused to mark the moment nature’s fury was visited on Japan, when the 9.0-magnitude quake set off a catastrophic chain of events.

At a national ceremony of remembrance in Tokyo, Japan’s mournful national anthem rang out before the prime minister and the emperor led silent prayers for those who lost their lives in the country’s worst post-war disaster.

Small rural towns along the coast that were turned to matchwood when the tsunami rolled in, wrecking whole neighbourhoods and wiping out communities, held their own emotional ceremonies.

In Ishinomaki, home to a fifth of those who died in the disaster, tsunami warning sirens wailed to mark the moment the quake sent a wall of water into the city where it claimed the lives of nearly 4,000 people.

Residents, who held small community ceremonies all over the wrecked city, had been warned on Saturday that the sirens would be raised.

In the badly hit Watanoha district, around 80 tearful people gathered, including Hitomi Oikawa, 37, who lost her father in the disaster.

“It’s been a year since my father died. I am going to pray that I can get over my grief and that my children can feel better,” she told AFP.

In Okuma, home to the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, displaced residents arrived by bus to pay their respects to lost loved ones.

Television footage showed sobbing relatives wrapped up against the radiation in protective suits, gloves and shoe covers, holding a ceremony for those who perished in the town.

An elderly woman, whose grandchild is still listed as missing, wept as she laid flowers at a makeshift alter.

“I want my grandchild to be found,” she told reporters.

In the nearby city of Koriyama, monks banged drums and offered prayers ahead of an anti-nuclear protest rally. There were too many people for the seating available at a baseball stadium.

Organisers opened up parts of the stadium that have not yet been cleansed of radioactive fallout, asking participants with small children not to use the area, an AFP journalist said.

“We demand all children are evacuated from Fukushima now,” said organiser Setsuko Kuroda.

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