Japan honours victims of 2011 earthquake

Monday 11 March 2013 18.32
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An elderly man visits a cemetery to pay respects to his son who was killed in the tsunami in Minamisoma in Fukushima prefecture
An elderly man visits a cemetery to pay respects to his son who was killed in the tsunami in Minamisoma in Fukushima prefecture
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe bows to Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko during a national memorial service for victims
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe bows to Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko during a national memorial service for victims
Two elderly women are reflected on a monument on which names of tsunami victims from the district are carved in Arahama district in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture
Two elderly women are reflected on a monument on which names of tsunami victims from the district are carved in Arahama district in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture
Relatives pay tribute during a national memorial service in Tokyo
Relatives pay tribute during a national memorial service in Tokyo
Police officers search for tsunami victims two years after, at a mud-covered riverside field near the Okawa elementary school in Ishinomaki city
Police officers search for tsunami victims two years after, at a mud-covered riverside field near the Okawa elementary school in Ishinomaki city
A little boy prays for his relatives killed by the 2011 tsunami at a cemetery in Minamisoma in Fukushima
A little boy prays for his relatives killed by the 2011 tsunami at a cemetery in Minamisoma in Fukushima
A group of Buddhist monks recites the sutra at the memorial alter at the Okawa elementary school
A group of Buddhist monks recites the sutra at the memorial alter at the Okawa elementary school

Japan has honoured the victims of its worst disaster since World War Two on the second anniversary of a devastating earthquake and tsunami.

Almost 19,000 people were killed, with thousands more missing, after the earthquake struck on 11 March, 2011.

The 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck northeast Japan, triggering tsunami waves as high as 30 metres that swept away residents and their homes.

Walls of water 13m high smashed into Tokyo Electric Power Co's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant north of Tokyo.

The main power supply was knocked out, backup generators were destroyed and the cooling system was crippled.

Three reactors melted down in the world's worst atomic accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

The triple disasters stunned a nation that had thought itself prepared for such eventualities and been taught to believe that nuclear power, which supplied nearly 30% of electricity at the time, was clean, safe and cheap.

A panel of experts commissioned by parliament to probe the nuclear crisis dubbed it a man-made disaster resulting from "collusion" among the government, regulators and the plant operator.

Two years later, rebuilding the northeast - a region already suffering from a fast-ageing population and stagnant local industries including farming - is patchy.

Almost 300,000 people still live in temporary housing.

The Fukushima Daiichi plant has been brought into a stable state known as "cold shut down", but decommissioning its damaged reactors will take decades and cost billions of dollars.

Many of the 160,000 who fled will never be able to return.

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