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

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid