Japan marks sixth anniversary of Tsunami disaster with sombre ceremonies

Japan is marking the anniversary of the Tsunami disaster with sombre ceremonies in Tokyo and in cities and towns in the northeast.

Published: 11th March 2017 12:19 PM  |   Last Updated: 11th March 2017 12:20 PM   |  A+A-

A man prays to mourn for victims of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami (Photo | AP) 

A man prays to mourn for victims of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami (Photo | AP) 

By Associated Press

TOKYO: Six years ago, more than 18,000 people died or went missing as a tsunami triggered by a massive quake engulfed coastal areas of northeastern Japan. Tens of thousands more people's lives were unravelled when they lost family members, friends, homes and livelihoods. The displacement widened as entire communities fled after meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant.

Japan is marking the anniversary of the disaster Saturday with sombre ceremonies in Tokyo and in cities and towns in the northeast. Most of the towns devastated on March 11, 2011, disasters have only partially rebuilt, and local authorities are struggling to finance construction.

Meanwhile, despite an abundance of jobs thanks to the rebuilding, the population in most of the region is falling.

Here are some measures of progress in Japan's recovery:

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RECONSTRUCTION: The government spent 26 trillion yen ($220 billion) in recovery and rebuilding from 2011-2015, but is due to slash that to only 6.5 trillion yen in 2016-2020. Reconstruction has been hampered by a shortage of workers, and while much of the public housing planned to replace destroyed homes has been finished, about a fifth of the units stand empty.

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DISPLACED FAMILIES: As many as 150,000 people fled radiation-affected areas near the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant. As of February, 123,000 were still displaced. Housing subsidies for so-called "voluntary evacuees" — those who left areas not designated as evacuation zones — are due to run out by the end of March. Japanese media say some of those families have struggled to find new housing.

Unit 4 reactor building of the crippled Fukushima
Dai-ichi nuclear power station is seen through
a bus window in Okuma, Japan (Photo | AP)

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THE NUCLEAR PLANT: Tokyo Electric Power Co. is struggling to decommission the wrecked plant and the estimated total cost exceeds 21 trillion yen ($182 billion). Cleanup of nearby areas has lagged and radiation levels remain high.

The cost of that cleanup has reportedly almost doubled to 4 trillion yen ($35 billion). TEPCO officials say radiation is not leaking outside of the reactors.

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FISHERIES: Many of the seaside towns in the disaster zone relied heavily on fishing and aquaculture. Data from Iwate prefecture, one of the hardest-hit areas, shows harvests of salmon and oysters still only at 40 percent of the level when the tsunami hit.

Other industries, such as sea urchin and abalone, have recovered to about 80 percent of normal. The region's fisheries still employ about 14,000 people, but that's down from about 18,000 in 2010.

Bereaved families pray for their loved ones who fell victim
to the 2011 earthquake and tsunami at the site of the
Unosumai disaster prevention centre as heavy machinery for
the ongoing work to raise the ground level of the area are
seen in the background in Kamaishi, Iwate prefecture,
Japan (Photo | AP)

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THE MISSING: As of Friday, 2,553 people are still missing, and occasionally teams still search the coastline for signs of their remains.

What's also missing are the many close-knit fishing hamlets and waterfronts in areas that were scoured bare by the tsunami, where only foundations remain.


 

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