Mar 11 2013 By Cheryl Mullin
JAPAN is marking the second anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami which left nearly 19,000 people dead or missing and more than 300,000 people homeless.
At services in Tokyo and in towns along the north-eastern coast, mourners bowed their heads in silence marking the time, 2.46pm, when the 9.0 earthquake struck off the coast.
“I pray that the peaceful lives of those affected can resume as soon as possible,” Emperor Akihito said at a sombre service at Tokyo’s National Theatre.
Japan has struggled to rebuild lost communities along the coast.
Tens of thousands of survivors living in temporary housing are impatient to be resettled, a process which officials say could take up to a decade.
Further south, in Fukushima prefecture, some 160,000 evacuees are uncertain if they will ever be able to return to their homes, abandoned when the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant went into melt down during the tsunami.
A lawsuit filed by a group of 800 people against the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co, the firm which operates the now-closed plant, is demanding an apology payment of 50,000 yen (£350) a month for each victim until all radiation from the accident is cleared.
In Kawauchi, one of many towns affected by radiation, village chief Yuko Endo is pinning his hopes on the success of a long decontamination process that may or may not enable hundreds of residents to return home.
Much of the area is off-limits, though some restrictions are gradually being lifted as workers remove debris and wipe down roofs by hand.
Many residents might give up on returning if they are kept waiting too long, he said.