|315,000 still languish in camps two years after Japan tsunami and nuclear plant explosion
Japan marks the second anniversary of the tsunami that claimed nearly 19,000 lives and sparked the worst nuclear plant explosion and meltdown in a generation.
The government will host a national ceremony in Tokyo, attended by Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, to mourn 15,881 people who died and 2,668 others who remain unaccounted for.
They and the rest of the nation will observe a moment of silence at 2:46 pm local time, the moment a 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck on March 11, 2011, in waters off the northeastern Pacific coast, AFP reports.
The jolt unleashed a tsunami that swallowed coastal communities and battered the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which went through meltdowns and explosions as the Naoto Kan government and the plant operator fiddled. One oafter another, th reactors exploded spilling radiation into the air, land and ocean, becoming the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986. No one is allowed to go into the area yet because of the radiation contamination.
Efforts to rebuild the disaster-hit region have been slow; figures show 315,196 people are still without a permanent home, many in cramped temporary housing units.
Tsunami-hit communities are divided among those who want to rebuild on land that may have been in the family for generations and those who want to move their town to higher, safer ground.
Complications associated with stressful living conditions have killed 2,303 survivors of the quake and tsunami, government figures show, while domestic violence and depression are increasingly noted as problems in some communities.
Nearly 10,000 aftershocks have been recorded since the original quake, including 736 jolts that measured above magnitude 5, some shaking the ground at the Fukushima plant where there are still no permanent fixes for the damaged reactors.
The government says the Fukushima plant is stable and no longer releasing radioactive materials. It says food products from the region are checked for radioactive contamination before being shipped to markets.
Despite reassurances, many consumers avoid Fukushima produce fearing it is contaminated.
“We will do what we can in Fukushima. But I ask that the rest of the country, the rest of the Japanese people, become knowledgeable about radiation,'' Fukushima governor Yuhei Sato said on a special programme on national broadcaster NHK.
“That in turn should lead to better understanding of Fukushima and the eradication of the baseless belief'' that all Fukushima products are contaminated, he said.
The government will need up to four decades to dismantle the crippled reactors.