March 11, 2019 / 12:12 PM / 14 days ago

Bells and sirens as Japan marks tsunami anniversary, pledges recovery

People pray to mourn victims at 2:46 PM (05:46 GMT), the time when the magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck off Japan's coast in 2011, in Iwaki, Fukushima prefecture, Japan March 11, 2019, to mark the eighth year anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that killed thousands and set off a nuclear crisis. Kyodo/via REUTERS

TOKYO (Reuters) - Bells rang and sirens sounded on Monday as Japan observed a moment of silence to commemorate the eighth anniversary of a massive earthquake and tsunami that left more than 20,000 people dead or missing, and triggered triple nuclear meltdowns.

The quake of magnitude nine on March 11, 2011 struck north of the Japanese capital, unleashing a tsunami that engulfed large swathes of the Pacific coast and caused the world’s worst nuclear accident in 25 years.

“Even now, 14,000 people are enduring protracted, inconvenient lives in such places as temporary housing,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a memorial service in Tokyo.

“We will provide seamless support ... and accelerate reconstruction.”

At the ceremony, Yuki Takahashi, who lost his mother in the tsunami, said, “Keeping in mind precious lives that were lost, I’ll keep on going to pass on lessons learned from the disaster.”

In a message to the dead, Takahashi, 41, added, “I’ll no longer shed tears. Please watch over us as we move toward reconstruction.”The dismantling of Tokyo Electric Power Co’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, the decontamination of affected areas, and compensation are estimated to cost 21.5 trillion yen ($193.3 billion).

Earthquakes are common in Japan, one of the world’s most seismically active areas, situated on the “Ring of Fire” arc of volcanoes and oceanic trenches that partly encircles the Pacific Ocean.

Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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