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Japan marks 8 years since Tohoku disaster

Japan on Monday marked the eighth anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan that left more than 15,000 people dead and triggered a nuclear disaster.
While the number of displaced has dropped from its peak of 470,000, about 52,000 people have yet to return to their hometowns since the magnitude 9.0 quake struck the region on March 11, 2011.
As of Friday, the disasters had left 15,897 people dead and 2,533 unaccounted for, mostly in the prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima, according to the National Police Agency.
The tsunami following the earthquake engulfed the six-reactor Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant located on the Pacific coast, and caused fuel meltdowns and hydrogen explosions.
Evacuation orders, issued after the plant spewed a massive amount of radioactive materials, have been lifted in many parts of Fukushima Prefecture with the progress of decontamination work, but the stigma of radiation contamination continues to attach to local food products although it has gradually lessened over the years.
At a state-sponsored memorial ceremony attended by members of the imperial family and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the National Theatre in Tokyo, a moment of silence was observed at 2:46 p.m., the time of day when the quake occurred.
The government is scheduled to disband in March 2021 the Reconstruction Agency, established seven years ago as the central control point for efforts to rebuild from the triple disasters.
But after deeming the affected people still need support, it has decided to effectively carry on the same work under a new entity it plans to create at the Cabinet Office.
Some 1,300 people in the hardest-hit prefectures are expected to continue living in temporary housing due to delays in construction of replacement housing, financial problems and other reasons, a Kyodo News survey found.
The decommissioning of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., is expected to take decades.
According to the decommissioning road map, the utility and the Japanese government will decide within the next fiscal year starting this April in which order and how to extract fuel from three of the reactors that suffered core meltdowns under the extremely high radiation levels. The actual removal is expected to start in 2021.
TEPCO has been making attempts to examine the damaged reactors and said last month that its remotely-controlled probe found that fuel debris inside one of the reactors can be lifted.


© KYODO
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