March 3, 2020 / 3:33 PM / a month ago

Japan to cancel ceremony marking deadly quake as coronavirus spreads: media

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan will cancel a ceremony to mark the anniversary of the deadly 2011 quake that devastated its northeast coast and triggered the Fukushima nuclear disaster, as it curbs gatherings as a precaution against coronavirus, Japanese media reported.

As many as 700 people, including senior government officials and lawmakers, had been expected to attend the ceremony on March 11 in Tokyo. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration will make the formal decision to halt the event when his cabinet meets on Friday, the reports said.

The powerful magnitude 9 quake, referred to as 3/11 in Japan, unleashed a tsunami that swept away coastal communities and crippled the Fukushima power plant. The subsequent radiation cloud released from its overheated reactors forced residents to flee from nearby towns, some of which remain abandoned inside an exclusion zone.

The torch relay that will bring the Olympic flame to Tokyo in July for the 2020 Games will begin in Fukushima prefecture on March 26.

Since the coronavirus outbreak began, 999 people have been infected in Japan, including passengers who disembarked from the Diamond Princess cruise ship. Nineteen new cases were reported around the country on Tuesday, according to public broadcaster NHK.

Reporting by Tim Kelly; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Editing by William Maclean

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