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Japan falls silent to mark decade since tsunami disaster

A minute’s silence was observed across the country at 2.46 pm local time, the precise moment a 9.0 magnitude quake hit.

japan-tsunami-anniversary Artists and staff members at the stage stand to mourn for the victims of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami during an online special memorial event at Hibiya Park in Tokyo. Source: Eugene Hoshiko

JAPAN HAS MARKED ten years since the worst natural disaster in the country’s living memory – a powerful earthquake, deadly tsunami and nuclear meltdown that traumatised a nation.

A minute’s silence was observed across the country at 2.46 pm local time (05.46 GMT), the precise moment a 9.0 magnitude quake hit off the northeast coast on 11 March 2011.

Around 18,500 people were killed or left missing in the disaster, most of them claimed by the towering waves triggered by one of the strongest quakes ever recorded.

The ensuing nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant blanketed nearby areas with radiation, rendering some towns uninhabitable for years and displacing tens of thousands of residents.

Speaking at a ceremony in Tokyo’s national theatre, Emperor Naruhito said the “unforgettable memory of the tragedy” persisted a decade on.

“Many of those afflicted, in spite of their having suffered from unimaginably enormous damage, have overcome numerous hardships by helping one another,” he added.

The annual memorial event was held before a smaller audience than usual, with the capital and nearby areas currently under a virus state of emergency.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the challenges faced by survivors had been compounded by the pandemic and natural disasters, including a recent strong quake in the region, classified as an aftershock of the 2011 tremor.

But he said Japan had always “overcome every crisis with courage and hope”.

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Private and public commemorations were seen across Japan as bereaved local residents laid flowers at graves and placed letters to missing family members into the sea.

As the sun rose in Fukushima prefecture’s Hisanohama, 78-year-old Toshio Kumaki walked along a giant sea wall built after the tsunami and offered a prayer.

Around 60 people were killed in Ohisa, one of the districts adjacent to the beach, when tsunami waves of seven metres washed ashore, wiping away everything but a tiny shrine.

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

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

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AFP

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