11 Mar 2016

Japan marks fifth anniversary of devastating tsunami

Japan remembers the thousands who were killed in an earthquake and tsunami five years ago that led to the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Emperor Akihito took part in a ceremony in Tokyo that included a moment of silence at the time of the earthquake, with bells ringing in the city centre and people across the nation, including decontamination workers in the Fukushima area, bowing their heads (picture above).

The nine-magnitude quake, one of the most powerful ever recorded, struck offshore, causing huge waves that resulted in the deaths of nearly 20,000 people.

The tsunami crippled the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Plant, where meltdowns in three reactors spewed radiation over a wide area of the countryside, contaminating water, food and air.

More than 160,000 people were evacuated from nearby towns, with tens of thousands still living in temporary housing in the region. Some areas remain no-go zones due to the high radiation.


Anti-nuclear protests were held outside the headquarters of Fukushima operator Tokyo Electric Power Co, with calls for Japan to abandon nuclear power, which were rejected by Mr Abe.

The government has spent large sums of money helping communities affected by the tsunami on Japan’s north-east coast. Land contaminated by radiation has been cleaned, but there are still people languishing in temporary housing.

Mr Abe said: “There are still many people living difficult lives in temporary housing and those who because of the nuclear accident cannot return to the places they lived.

“We will speed up our efforts to build housing and disaster-proof towns … so they can return as quickly as possible to permanent housing and stable lives.”