Japan remembers deadly earthquake, tsunami, nuclear disaster

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Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks at a news conference a day before Japan remembers the victims of the March 11, 2011 triple disaster at his official residence in Tokyo, Japan, March 10, 2016. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

Japan marked the seventh anniversary of the deadly earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster that killed over 18,000 people on its northeastern coast in 2011.

In a somber ceremony held in Tokyo Sunday, Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and members of the Japanese imperial family honored the victims of the disaster.

“When I think of the despair of those who lost beloved members of their families and friends in the disaster, I am overwhelmed even now with deep sorrow,” Abe said in a speech.

The head of state promised that rebuilding efforts in the region affected by the disaster will continue. He said that 90 percent of the homes affected by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami will be finished by spring.

According to Abe, as many as 70,000 are still under evacuation, with many still unsure when they can return to their hometowns.

Prince Akishino, the second son of Emperor Akihito, said that he hopes that the incident will raise awareness and help generations to come in dealing with natural disasters.

“It is my earnest hope … that we hand down the knowledge to future generations in order to protect many people from the dangers of disasters,” the prince said.

Japan also observed a moment of silence at 2:46 p.m., the same time the powerful magnitude 9.1 earthquake struck seven years ago.

The earthquake had hit under the Pacific Ocean off the east coast of Japan. The tremor caused a massive tsunami that devastated Japan’s coastal areas, causing widespread damage and loss of life. The tsunami overcame Japan’s sea walls and washed away structures, buildings, vehicles, and entire communities as an overwhelming volume of seawater rushed inland.

The tidal wave also destroyed the emergency power supply of the seaside Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant causing the plant’s cooling systems to fail and its reactors to go into partial meltdown. The Fukushima nuclear incident is considered the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.