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Japan remembers victims of Great East Japan Earthquake
Publication Date : 12-03-2014
Tuesday marked the third anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake. The catastrophe left 15,884 people dead and 2,633 missing as of Monday, according to the National Police Agency. Many people in coastal areas of Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi prefectures that were struck by massive tsunami prayed for those whose lives were taken due to the disaster.
At 9am on Tuesday, Otsuchi Mayor Yutaka Ikarigawa in Iwate Pretecture and about 30 senior town officials held a minute of silent prayer and offered flowers in front of the former town government office. When the tsunami hit the town office three years ago, 40 town employees died, including the mayor at the time. Reading the names of the fallen employees with a trembling voice, Ikarigawa said: “Time goes by quickly. It’s been three years already. As I stand here, I recall each employee’s face.”
In Miyako, Iwate Prefecture, where 514 people are dead or still missing, evacuation drills are conducted on March 11 each year.
The disaster drill held on Tuesday was based on the scenario that an earthquake equal in magnitude to the Great East Japan Earthquake had occurred in waters east of Aomori Prefecture. “I want this city to be able to protect people’s lives,” said Miyako Mayor Masanori Yamamoto.
Warnings were broadcast over the community public address system at 6am urging, “Please seek higher ground if you are near the coast.” Citizens including parents, children and the elderly hurriedly assembled inside a gymnasium designated as an evacuation center. Schoolchildren have recently joined the drills, raising their awareness of the importance of evacuation.
In Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, unveiling ceremonies of disaster memorials were held in two districts in coastal areas in the morning. The monuments were built to mourn citizens lost in the tsunami, and to pass down the memories of the disaster to future generations.
In the Isobe District, where 251 lives were lost, an unveiling ceremony of a monument bearing the names of the victims was held at an old community center site that was washed away by tsunami. “We must never forget the ones who were lost to us in the disaster,” Mayor Hidekiyo Tachiya said at the ceremony.
Families and relatives who lost loved ones held a silent prayer for them and offered flowers at the monument. The head of the district, Tomihiro Ohashi, 67, said: “Many friends and family died. The town has changed. But reconstruction housing has been built and smiles are returning to people’s faces. I want to pass down this place that has been cherished by our ancestors to our children and grandchildren.”