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

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid