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Japan’s Fukushima area marks anniversary of 2011 disaster

Participants head for higher ground during an early morning tsunami evacuation drill in Miyako, Iwate Prefecture, on Saturday.  (Japan News-Yomiuri/Japan News-Yomiuri)
Washington Post

Japan News-Yomiuri

FUKUSHIMA, Japan – People gathered across the Tohoku region to remember victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami on Saturday, the 12th anniversary of a disaster that left more than 22,000 people dead or missing.

From early in the morning, people offered prayers along parts of the coast devastated by the tsunami, while others pressed their hands together in front of cenotaphs. People also gathered at an elementary school to mourn students who died while attempting to evacuate.

Disaster drills were held in the early hours of the morning in some coastal areas, in which people practiced evacuating to higher ground on foot and by car. Through such drills, the lessons of the disaster are being passed on to future generations.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, speaking at a memorial service for the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Fukushima on Saturday, said he would make every effort to revitalize the Tohoku region.

About 300 officials from the central and prefectural governments as well as bereaved families prayed for those who perished in the 2011 disaster at the service, which was organized by the Fukushima prefectural government.

Those attending the ceremony also renewed their pledge to help rebuild the affected areas. At 2:46 p.m., when the earthquake struck, a minute of silent prayer was held.

Kishida stated that the government would continue to do its utmost for the reconstruction and revitalization of Fukushima Prefecture and the entire Tohoku region.

Koichi Miyaguchi, 65, a resident of Minami-Soma in the prefecture who lost his parents in the tsunami, gave a speech as a representative of the bereaved families.

“I still feel frustrated and disappointed 12 years after the disaster, and the feeling has not changed at all. It is important to always live with an awareness of disaster prevention,” he said.

According to the National Police Agency and other organizations, 18,423 people were killed or went missing as a direct result of the disaster, and 3,792 more died due to difficulties following evacuation.

For the first time since the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, the past 12 months have seen no further victims discovered and no victim identities confirmed, the National Police Agency said Thursday.

The total number of missing people in the six worst-hit prefectures, including Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, stands at 2,523.

There are 53 victims – 47 in Iwate Prefecture and six in Miyagi Prefecture – who are yet to be identified.