Today, Japan is marking the second anniversary of one of the world’s worst natural disasters in modern times. But while much has been said about the country and its people’s resilience amidst the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown that claimed almost 19,000 lives, the past few months are also a reality check that everything is still not in order.
The reconstruction efforts, particularly in the Fukushima region, have been particularly slow. Experts say it will take almost four decades to fully decommission the crippled nuclear reactors of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, whose meltdown was the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl. While the government assures the public that the plant is no longer releasing radioactive materials, radiation levels inside are still too high for the workers to be able to safely dismantle the reactors. Worrisome also is the fact that the rest of Japan still significantly avoid Fukushima produce, despite constant reminders that all the food products from the region are tested before being shipped off. Fukushima governor Yuhei Sato says that the public needs to be re-educated about radiation, which will lead to a “better understanding of Fukushima”.
Another problem facing the government is that only two of its 50 nuclear reactors have been reactivated due to stricter safety standards being implemented. But the world’s third largest economy is largely dependent on nuclear energy to power its businesses and the Japanese people’s lifestyle, so the pro-nuclear administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will probably restart some of the units.
Around 315,196 people whose homes were destroyed on March 11 are still living in cramped temporary housing units. 2,303 survivors from the quake/tsunami have died due to various complications from the stressful living conditions. Communities that were affected by the disasters are divided on whether to rebuild on the land that has mostly been owned by their families for generations or totally move their communities to a safer environment. Surveys show that young people prefer to leave the region to start over. Domestic violence, depression/suicide and divorce are just some of the social problems facing the affected communities.
Despite these numerous problems, today at least, the nation will be one in remembering those who died on that fateful period. A national ceremony will be held in Tokyo, to be attended by Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko. A moment of silence will also be observed at 2:46pm, the exact moment when the 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck, which altered the course of the nation.
[ via Couriermail ]