Japan is marking 7 years since the earthquake and tsunami that caused a nuclear plant meltdown.Japan is marking the seventh anniversary of the powerful earthquake and massive tsunami in the country’s northeast that caused the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
Memorial services will be held in Tokyo and north-eastern Japan on Sunday for about 18,500 people who were killed after the magnitude-9 quake and the ensuing tsunami struck the region on March 11, 2011.
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko are scheduled to attend a government-sponsored memorial ceremony in the capital along with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and bereaved families and survivors.
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant suffered a triple meltdown, spewing radioactive material into the air, after it was hit by the twin natural disasters.
The accident prompted hundreds of thousands of people to leave their homes due to fears of radiation contamination.
About 49,500 have not been able to return home in areas near the plant, according to the Fukushima prefectural government, but activists and evacuees argued the actual number is much larger.
Last year, the government lifted evacuation orders in many of the towns surrounding the plant as it said decontamination work was completed. But most of the residents, especially mothers and children, have yet to return to their hometowns as critics say the clean-up operations were not effective.
The meltdown at the Fukushima has made a majority of the Japanese public oppose nuclear power generation. However, Abe’s government has been eager to restart offline reactors. Of Japan’s 42 workable reactors, only three units are currently in operation.