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IMAGES: With prayers Japan marks quake-tsunami anniversary

Last updated on: March 11, 2012 16:09 IST

With prayers Japan marks quake-tsunami anniversary

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With a moment of silence, prayers and a vow to rebuild the nation, Japan on Sunday marked the first anniversary of the massive earthquake and tsunami that killed nearly 19,000 people and triggered the world's worst nuclear crisis since 1986.

Memorial services were held in three northeastern prefectures hit hard by the tsunami -- Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima -- as well as in Tokyo and elsewhere, with a moment of silence observed across the country at 2:46 pm, the time the 9.0 magnitude quake hit the country and sparked a nuclear crisis at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

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Image: A mother and her daughter offer prayers for victims of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster at a seaside which was damaged by the disaster in Iwaki, Fukushima prefecture to mark the first anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that killed thousands and set off a nuclear crisis
Photographs: Reuters

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Emperor Akihito and Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda led the main memorial ceremony held at Tokyo's National Theatre where a single pillar decorated with white Chrysanthemums and lilies was erected, symbolising the souls of the victims. Nearly 1,200 people dressed in black attended the service and observed silence for the departed souls.

The powerful quake triggered a series of explosions at Fukushima nuclear plant, forcing thousands of people to evacuate to escape radiation.


Image: Wakana Kumagai, 7, and her mother Yoshiko cry as they visit the spot where their house, which was washed away by the tsunami used to stand in Higashimatsushima, Miyagi prefecture, to mark the first anniversary of an earthquake and tsunami that killed thousands and set off a nuclear crisis. Kumagai's father Kazuyuki called his wife Yoshiko just after the March 11, 2011 earthquake to tell her to take the children to Omagari elementary school which was serving as a shelter. He was found near the shelter four days after the tsunami, Yoshiko said
Photographs: Reuters

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With prayers Japan marks quake-tsunami anniversary

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Shortly after the quake, an immense surge of water enveloped the north-eastern coast as a tsunami swept cars, ships, and buildings away, crushing coastal communities.

The twin natural disasters claimed more than 15,800 lives, and more than 3,000 people remain unaccounted for. At the memorial service, Noda pledged Japan would recover from its tragedy, Kyodo news agency reported.


Image: Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko arrive for a memorial ceremony marking the first anniversary of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami, in Tokyo
Photographs: Reuters
Tags: Japan , Kyodo , Noda

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With prayers Japan marks quake-tsunami anniversary

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"Our forebears, who led our country to prosperity, stood up with brave resolution in times of crisis," he said.

"While offering our support for the daily struggles of those people in the disaster-affected regions, we will join hands as we seek to fulfill our historic mission of "the rebirth of Japan through reconstruction."

The emperor, who is recovering from a recent heart surgery, said Japan would "never forget" the tragedy.


Image: A man takes part in a moment of silence during a ceremony at an area damaged by March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture
Photographs: Reuters
Tags: Japan

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With prayers Japan marks quake-tsunami anniversary

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In tsunami-ravaged towns along the northeast, residents solemnly placed flowers where homes once stood. Warning sirens wailed in some areas at the precise time the quake struck.

At dawn, dozens of people from across Japan gathered at coastal town of Rikuzentakata to offer prayers for loved ones lost in the disaster. Some wept quietly.

Tens of thousands of people rallied near Japan's crippled Fukushima plant, demanding an end to nuclear energy in the country and compensation for victims.


Image: A woman paints an anti-nuclear message on the cheek of a girl attending a ceremony in Manila to mark the first anniversary of an earthquake and tsunami that killed thousands and set off a nuclear crisis in Japan
Photographs: Reuters

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With prayers Japan marks quake-tsunami anniversary

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A year after being forced to abandon homes and businesses in the shadow of the Fukushima nuclear plant, tens of thousands of refugees are still in limbo, unable to return and having to battle for compensation.

Although much of the debris has been cleared, survivors from the devastated northeast have complained about slow recovery efforts.

The country is still dealing with the economic and political fallout of the disaster. Parts of the northeastern coast are still badly damaged.


Image: Fishermen throw flowers and lanterns into the sea as they offer prayers to victims of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Ofunato
Photographs: Reuters

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With prayers Japan marks quake-tsunami anniversary

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Rebuilding efforts represent Japan's greatest challenge since the end of World War II. So far, total damage is estimated at 25 million yen or $ 300 billion.

Slow progress in drawing up plans for the tsunami and radiation tainted region is deepening the misery of survivors, about 3,26,000 of whom are still homeless, including 80,000 evacuated from the vicinity of the Fukushima plant.

The nuclear crisis also revealed serious flaws in the nuclear industry's regulatory systems and safety standards.



Image: A protester shows his radiation dosimeter as he attends an anti-nuclear rally in Koriyama, Fukushima prefecture
Photographs: Reuters

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Twelve months on from the disaster, few have received the compensation payouts they expected from plant operator Tokyo Electric Power

TEPCO President Toshio Nishizawa apologised again for the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and vowed to continue efforts to keep the crippled complex under control.

"While always keeping in mind the tremendous responsibility we have to maintain stable conditions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, we will continue to safely work toward the mid-to-long term decommissioning of the reactors," Nishizawa said in a statement.

While the government declared the plant's reactors had reached "cold shutdown" in December, its dismantling and the clean-up will take decades at an incalculable cost using technologies yet to be developed.

Image: Wakana Kumagai, 7, jumps on the grave of her father, who was killed by the tsunami, in Higashimatsushima, Miyagi prefecture
Photographs: Reuters

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