Japan Tsunami Anniversary

March 11, 2012 by staff 

Japan Tsunami Anniversary, With a moment of silence, prayers and anti-nuclear rallies, Japan marks on Sunday one year since an earthquake and tsunami killed thousands and set off a radiation crisis that shattered public trust in atomic power and the nation’s leaders.

A year after the magnitude 9.0 earthquake unleashed a wall of water that hit Japan’s northeast coast, killing nearly 16,000 and leaving nearly 3,300 unaccounted for, the country is still grappling with the human, economic and political costs.

In the port of Ofunato, hundreds of black-clad residents gathered at the town hall to lay white chrysanthemums at an altar dedicated to the town’s 420 dead and missing.

“We can’t just stay sad. Our mission is to face reality and move forward step by step,” said petrol station owner Kosei Chiba, 46, who lost his mother and wife in the disaster.

“But the damage the town suffered was too big and our psychological scars are too deep. We need a long time to rebuild.”

Just a kilometre (half a mile) from Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (Tepco) wrecked Fukushima plant, where reactor meltdowns triggered the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl, residents of the abandoned town of Okuma were allowed back for a few hours to honour the dead.

“It was a wonderful place. If it wasn’t for all that’s happened, I’d be able to come back. But thanks to Tepco, I wasn’t even able to search for the bodies of my relatives,” said Tomoe Kimura, 93, who lost four members of his family in the tsunami, two of whom were never found.

Authorities have imposed a 20-km (12 mile) no-go zone around the plant and residents may never be allowed back.

Along the coast, police and coastguard officers, urged on by families of the missing, still search rivers and shores for remains even though the chances of finding any appear very slim.

The nation will observe a moment of silence at 2:46 p.m. (0546 GMT) when the quake struck. Ofunato, will pause again 33 minutes later to mark when a 23-metre (75-foot) tsunami ripped through this town of 41,000.

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