Japan is marking the 10th anniversary of the massive earthquake and tsunami that devastated scores of villages and towns and triggered one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Emperor Naruhito led mourners in a moment of silence during a memorial ceremony in Tokyo Thursday at the exact moment a 9.0-magnitude quake triggered a tsunami that swept across northeastern Japan before striking the nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture.
The high waves knocked out the plant’s power supply and cooling systems, causing a meltdown of three reactors, sending massive amounts of radiation into the air and forcing the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of residents, making it the world’s worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl accident.
The Japanese government has spent nearly $300 billion on reconstruction projects in Fukushima and other surrounding areas, but many areas around the crippled plant remain off-limits due to continued high levels of radiation. More than 40,000 residents are still displaced due to the Fukushima nuclear meltdown.
Residents along the country’s northeastern coast gathered early Thursday to lay flowers and hold a silent prayer for the more than 18,000 people who lost their lives in the disaster.