News / Asia

Japan Marks 3rd Anniversary of Devastating Earthquake

Relatives of victims of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami bow to the altar as they offer chrysanthemums for the victims at the national memorial service in Tokyo, March 11, 2014.
Relatives of victims of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami bow to the altar as they offer chrysanthemums for the victims at the national memorial service in Tokyo, March 11, 2014.
VOA News
Japan is marking the third anniversary of the earthquake-tsunami disaster that killed over 18,000 people and caused the world's worst nuclear crisis in decades.

A moment of silence was held across the country at 2:46 p.m. local time Tuesday, exactly three years after the 9.0-magnitude earthquake hit.

At a ceremony, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke of the need for resilience and promised to speed up much-needed reconstruction efforts.

"Our predecessors overcame many troubles and much suffering, but each time got back up stronger than before," he said. "Those who live today must learn from them and I hereby pledge to work together hand-in-hand to meet whatever challenges face us."

The undersea quake triggered a killer tsunami that swallowed coastal communities. It also battered the Fukushima nuclear power plant, which suffered three meltdowns and still spews radiation into the atmosphere.

Despite billions of dollars in government pledges, efforts to rebuild the disaster-hit region have been slow. More than 270,000 people are still without a permanent home, many remaining in cramped temporary housing units.

Engineers said it will take at least four decades to dismantle the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Temple University Asian studies professor Jeff Kingston told VOA frustration is widespread. "I guess people probably didn't imagine that there'd still be more than a quarter million people still displaced by the events of three years ago. Most people are disappointed with the pace of rebuilding," he said. "A vast majority of people think it's going way too slow and the government needs to do more to push it forward."

In some of the worst-hit areas, many wonder if the government intends to rebuild at all.

Yuzo Uehara traveled Tuesday to the town of Minamisanrikucho, much of which remains either destroyed or deserted.

"It feels as if time passed quickly, and at the same time slowly. If you say three years - children would have grown. But as you can see, there's nothing here," Yuzo Uehara said. "That's the reality now."

There have also been protests at Abe's plan to restart nuclear reactors that were closed for safety checks in response to the crisis.

Michael Cucek with the Tokyo-based MIT Center for International Studies told VOA the government views nuclear power as a crucial source of energy.

"Basically, Japan is burning through its checkbook to buy fossil fuels around the world at very high prices which are jacked up precisely because Japan has no choice. The figures came out yesterday, [Tokyo reported] the biggest capital account deficit in Japan's history. We have a huge trade deficit, also mostly due to the increase in consumption of fossil fuels trying to replace lost generating capacity at Fukushima," said Cucek.

Back at Tuesday's ceremony in Tokyo, Emperor Akihito was focused less on policy and more on unity. He said despite frustrations, it is important that the Japanese people "unite their hearts and stand by each other."

Leaders from around the world also began sending in their well-wishes on Tuesday's anniversary. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement that he continues to be "impressed by the strength of the Japanese people" in overcoming the crisis. He said the U.S. will continue to stand "shoulder to shoulder with our Japanese friends as they rebuild their lives and communities."

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

America's Most Exotic Presidential Pets

From alligators to bears, the White House has been home to some unusual presidential pets over the years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs