Japan Marks 2 Years Since Quake, Tsunami

300K still displaced as recovery continues

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 11, 2013 3:17 AM CDT | Updated Mar 11, 2013 3:37 AM CDT

(Newser) – Japan fell silent today to mark the second anniversary of the country's worst natural disaster in living memory, an earthquake and subsequent tsunami that left 19,000 people dead or missing and devastated large areas along its northeast coast. "I pray that the peaceful lives of those affected can resume as soon as possible," Emperor Akihito said at a memorial service in Tokyo. But two years after the disaster, more than 300,000 people remain displaced and the cleanup and reconstruction process is ongoing, the AP reports.

Around half of those still displaced are evacuees from around the Fukushima nuclear plant, where meltdowns occurred at three reactors after tsunami waters knocked out cooling systems. The country's 50 nuclear reactors were shut down after the disaster and only two have reopened since, but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is continuing his push to restart them after safety checks, the BBC reports. At Fukushima, thousands of workers are still decontaminating and decommissioning the plant, a process expected to take up to 40 years.

Police officers search for the remains of those who went missing in the March 11, 2011 tsunami  in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, northern Japan.
Police officers search for the remains of those who went missing in the March 11, 2011 tsunami in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, northern Japan.   (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
Houses stand on a deserted, snow-covered deserted port area  which was engulfed by a tsunami in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, northeastern Japan.
Houses stand on a deserted, snow-covered deserted port area which was engulfed by a tsunami in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, northeastern Japan.   (AP Photo/Koji Ueda)
People join hands to pray for the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami victims at dawn in Iwaki, Fukushima prefecture, northern Japan.
People join hands to pray for the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami victims at dawn in Iwaki, Fukushima prefecture, northern Japan.   (AP Photo/Kyodo News)
A family visits the place where their house was swept away by the tsunami in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, northern Japan.
A family visits the place where their house was swept away by the tsunami in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, northern Japan.   (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
A man points to a name inscribed in a cenotaph in Okawa district in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, northern Japan.
A man points to a name inscribed in a cenotaph in Okawa district in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, northern Japan.   (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
Police officers continue search for the remains of those who went missing in the March 11, 2011 tsunami.
Police officers continue search for the remains of those who went missing in the March 11, 2011 tsunami.   (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
Gathering around what is left of a disaster control center devastated by the earthquake and tsunami, people bow their heads in Minamisanriku, Miyagi prefecture, Japan.
Gathering around what is left of a disaster control center devastated by the earthquake and tsunami, people bow their heads in Minamisanriku, Miyagi prefecture, Japan.   (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
An artificially-restored miracle pine tree, that survived the March 11, 2011 tsunami, is silhouetted against the rising sun in Rikuzentakata, Iwate prefecture, Japan.
An artificially-restored "miracle pine tree," that survived the March 11, 2011 tsunami, is silhouetted against the rising sun in Rikuzentakata, Iwate prefecture, Japan.   (AP Photo/Kyodo News)
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