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Reflection, Anger Mark Anniversary of Tsunami
March 11, 2012

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People throughout the tsunami-ravaged areas of Japan marked a minute of silence at 2:46 p.m., the time of the 9.0-magnitude earthquake that set off the devastating tsunami that killed more than 15,000 people. A further 3,000 are missing one year later.

The mood in many communities was reflective and somber, as people remembered their lost loved ones and their lost homes. The powerful waves swept away whole families and communities, leaving hundreds of thousands of people temporarily homeless. Many have returned to some form of permanent shelter, but tens of thousands of people are still living in makeshift housing, with government initiatives estimating that return-home times are still a few years away. 

The Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant, at which nuclear meltdowns precipitated a nuclear crisis on an order of magnitude not seen since Chernobyl, remains shut down, with a 12-mile-diamater no-go zone around it. The land and water in and around the plant is so contaminated that officials might keep large numbers of people out for decades to come. (Workers protected by special suits have been working on-and-off for a few months.) Toshio Nishizawa, still president of Tokyo Electric Power Company a year after the meltdown, offered yet another apology.

In some communities, the mood was an angry one, with large numbers of people attending anti-nuclear rallies and protesting against what they said was the government's slow pace of recovery. (Indeed, some areas have recovered more quickly than others.) In the city of Koriyama, 16,000 people attended a rally to protest the country's continued reliance on nuclear power.

Government officials urged people to work together through the remaining recovery. Emperor Akihito, who famously addressed the Japanese on television just five days after last year's disaster, gave this message at a memorial service at the National Theatre in Tokyo. Echoing the concern was Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, in office since September, after the resignation of Naoto Kan, who was prime minister when the quake and tsunami hit and who worked so tirelessly in the weeks and months afterward.

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