Japan marks tsunami, nuclear tragedy 8 years on

A woman facing the sea to pray while mourning the victims of the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan that left about 18,500 people dead or missing.
A woman facing the sea to pray while mourning the victims of the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan that left about 18,500 people dead or missing.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO • With flowers, silent prayers and tearful tributes, Japan yesterday marked the eighth anniversary of a crippling earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster that devastated its north-eastern coast and left about 18,500 people dead or missing.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, lawmakers and family members who lost their loved ones in the disaster bowed their heads in prayer at a ceremony in Tokyo at 2.46pm - the exact moment the quake struck.

"We can't help but feel sorrow when we think about the suffering of those who lost beloved family members, relatives and friends," Mr Abe said.

Eight years on, he said reconstruction was making "steady" progress, but vowed to continue government support to tens of thousands still struggling in uncomfortable living conditions.

Residents in tsunami-hit coastal towns also laid bouquets and bowed their heads as they remembered the moment the waves hit, devastating entire communities in an instant.

In addition to causing widespread death and destruction, the killer tsunami also swamped the emergency power supply at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

This sent its reactors into meltdown as cooling systems failed, sparking the worst global nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

At the ceremony yesterday, Mr Yuki Takahashi, who lost his mother in the tsunami, said: "Keeping in mind precious lives that were lost, I'll keep passing on lessons learnt from the disaster."

In a message to the dead, Mr Takahashi, 41, said: "I'll no longer shed tears. Please watch over us as we move towards reconstruction."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 12, 2019, with the headline 'Japan marks tsunami, nuclear tragedy 8 years on'. Print Edition | Subscribe