Tokyo - Three years on, the pain has not diminished. Today, the whole of Japan is remembering the day of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. The confirmed death toll stands at 15,884 with 2,633 missing and 267,000 people are living as evacuees.
At the national memorial service held in Tokyo today in the presence of their Majesties the Emperor and Empress, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reconfirmed his commitment to building a disaster resilient nation.
Prime Minister Abe said: “Every time I visit the disaster areas, I feel very keenly that reconstruction is moving forward one step at a time, with agriculture resuming, fishing ports overflowing with the joy of the day’s catches, and the sight of families that have moved into public housing for disaster victims, among many other signs of progress. However, many people are still living lives of great inconvenience even now. There are also a large number of people who are still unable to return to their hometowns because of the nuclear accident.
“Accelerating reconstruction still further and enabling the people affected by the disaster to return to their regular lives as soon as possible is a way to repay the departed souls of the victims watching over us from heaven. At the same time, I pledge firmly that we will etch firmly into our minds the valuable lessons that we gained through the trials of the great earthquake disaster, and that we will move forward tirelessly on creating a nation with a high degree of resilience to disasters in order fully to defend the lives, physical welfare, and assets of our nationals from various types of future disasters.”
The 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck at 2:46 pm on 11 March 2011 and was followed by tsunamis which engulfed large areas of the Tohoku coast including the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant. In this memorial week, many broadcast and print media are focused on recalling the catastrophe, analysis of events and lessons learned to prepare for future disasters.
At this time next year, the March 11 anniversary will lend both poignancy and urgency to the talks which will get underway in Sendai City - the capital city of Miyagi Prefecture in the Tohoku region - at the Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, on March 14, organized by UNISDR and the Government of Japan.
The main item on the Sendai Conference agenda will be a successor to the Hyogo Framework for Action which was adopted in Kobe, Japan, in 2005 within weeks of the Indian Ocean tsunami. Over 8,000 people are expected to attend the 2015 event including Heads of State, government ministers, parliamentarians, academics, NGO and other civil society representatives.
Today, the Mayor of Sendai, Emiko Okuyama, in her own message to the people of the city, said: “Since the day of enormous loss, we have moved forward step-by-step toward reconstruction. There have been constant hardships and distresses in this process. However, the best efforts of the our 1,070,000 citizens working together in close cooperation and encouraging each other, are now bearing a fruit now.”
In Sendai City, reconstruction of houses and relocation of affected families is continuing at a steady pace. Plans are in place to accelerate housing construction as well as to resume farming in previously submerged fields, according to the Mayor.
Ms. Okuyama concluded: “For the citizens of Sendai City, the Great East Japan Earthquake is an incident that must never be forgotten….It is our duty to hand down the experiences we had and lessons learned to future generations, and to contribute to the progress of disaster risk reduction in the world”.
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