Tokyo, Mar 11 (efe-epa).- Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga called on citizens Thursday to remember “the invaluable lessons” left by the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, and the subsequent nuclear crisis, in a commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the catastrophe.
Suga spoke at an official ceremony held at Tokyo’s National Theater, one of many tributes throughout the country in memory of the more than 18,000 victims of the tragedy a decade ago.
“The invaluable lessons we have learned at the grave costs imposed by the earthquake and its consequent disasters shall never fade,” Suga said at the event also attended by Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako, as well as other political personalities and relatives of the victims.
A minute of silence was observed at 2.46 pm local time, the exact moment a magnitude-9 earthquake struck off the northeast coast of the country.
The earthquake unleashed a huge tsunami less than an hour later, which in some points reached 40 meters in height and caused serious damage to the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, leading to the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986.
Suga affirmed that reconstruction “has progressed steadily in disaster-stricken areas in the decade since,” adding that this process “is now entering its final phases.”
The prime minister also highlighted “steady progress” made in the areas that were evacuated due to radioactive contamination, and which have been progressively reopened to allow the return of residents.
However, he said some 2,000 people continue to reside in temporary housing out of the approximately 36,000 who have not returned for various reasons.
Suga also pledged to “incessantly re-examine our disaster prevention and mitigation protocols” and said that Japan “has an obligation to apply the lessons we have accumulated from this earthquake and its consequent disasters” and share them with the world.
Naruhito expressed confidence that Japan will become “a nation resilient to natural disasters by utilizing those lessons learned” and said that he still has “the unforgettable memory of the tragedy” engraved in his mind.
In his first speech at such an event since he ascended the throne in 2019, he acknowledged that “various problems still remain in the regions affected” and referred to the situation of those displaced and the negative impact on the region’s agriculture industry.
“I also consider it important to heal emotional scars and watch over the mental and physical health of those afflicted,” said the emperor, who pledged with the empress to “continue to listen to the voices of those in the afflicted regions and stay close to them.” EFE-EPA