TOKYO (AFP) – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe led a somber ceremony yesterday as Japan marked the seventh anniversary of a deadly earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster that devastated its northeastern coast and left around 18,500 people dead or missing.
The magnitude 9.0 quake – which struck under the Pacific Ocean on March 11, 2011 at 2:46 pm – resulted to a tsunami that caused widespread damage. The killer tsunami also swamped the emergency power supply at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, sending its reactors into meltdown as cooling systems failed in what was the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.
Mr Abe, lawmakers and family members who lost their loved ones in the disaster bowed their heads in silent prayer at a ceremony in Tokyo yesterday.
Japanese private broadcaster also showed residents in the affected areas offering a moment of silence.
The total of dead or missing from the earthquake and the tsunami stood at 18,434 people, according to the National Police Agency. More than 3,600 people – most of them from Fukushima – died from causes such as illness and suicide linked to the aftermath of the tragedy.
Despite progress in rehabilitation, more than 73,000 people still remain displaced.