Three years since the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami disaster that rocked the country’s northeast region and caused the world’s biggest nuclear crisis, many continue to remain homeless and unable to return to their hometowns. Around 267,000 people are still living in temporary housing and makeshift residences, a day before the third year anniversary of one of Japan’s biggest tragedies.
A magnitude 9.0-earthquake struck Japan around 2:46 PM on March 11, 2011 followed by a tsunami that washed away most of the northeastern part of the country, or Tohoku region, forcing some 470,000 people to evacuate. Up until today, authorities are still searching for those missing and unaccounted for since the incident. The National Police Agency has recorded 15,884 people killed with 2,636 people still missing. Most of the victims came from the Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima Prefectures along the east coast. Suicides caused by the disasters were recorded at 2,916 in September of last year. However, the number continues to rise as the mental and physical stresses of living in shelters take its toll on many people. According to the Reconstruction Agency, 97,000 people and more continue to live in makeshift houses in the three disaster-hit prefectures. During a House of Councillors Budget Committee meeting, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed to “make this a year in which (people) can achieve more reconstruction than before.” Despite this, the towns continue to struggle as issues of delays in reconstruction plague the rebuilding efforts.
After the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, debate on the use of nuclear power has been on-going, as 48 of the commercial reactors in the country remain offline. However, the government has been pushing to restart them as soon as new safety regulations have been met. Many of the affected areas have started commemorating the anniversary of the tragedy in advance. Municipalities in Fukushima held memorial services last Sunday, as well as the city of Rikuzentakata in Iwate. “Tuesday is a weekday and we do not have a big facility that can host a ceremony, and it is easier for many people who lost their families to go on a Sunday,” reasoned a city official.