Tokyo, March 11 (IANS) Japan on Friday marked the fifth anniversary of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated coastal areas of the Tohoku region.
At 2.46 p.m. (local time), millions of people will observe a moment of silence in Japan marking the fifth anniversary of the quake that killed at least 19,304 people and left more than 2,500 still unaccounted for as of Thursday.
The anniversary comes as about 174,000 evacuees from disaster-hit areas still live outside their damaged hometowns, the Japan Times reported.
On Friday, a memorial ceremony will be held in Tokyo, attended by Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as well as three representatives of survivors from Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, the three main areas devastated in the disasters.
Likewise in many places throughout Tohoku, memorial ceremonies will be held with a moment of silence observed at 2.46 p.m. (local time), when the magnitude-9.0 quake hit the region, triggering the gigantic tsunami five years ago.
In a paper released on Thursday, the central government declared "restoration of social infrastructure had been largely finished."
On Thursday, Abe argued that the Tohoku region continued to "make steady progress" toward recovery.
"Now more than 70 percent of (disaster-hit) agricultural land has become ready for planting, and nearly 90 percent of fishery-product processing facilities have resumed operations," Abe boasted at the news conference.
Disaster-hit coastal communities also face a graying and shrinking population, which will make it even more difficult for local towns to recover from the lingering effects of 3/11.
According to a poll conducted by the daily Mainichi Shimbun, 16 of 42 mayors of cities and towns in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures said they expect the populations of their municipalities will dwindle more than 10 percent over the next decade.
Meanwhile, at the crippled Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant, problems remain far from being solved.
Meanwhile, the Abe administration gears up to reactivate more of the nation's 42 commercial reactors that remain shut down in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear crisis.
Off the 44 total reactors, two in Satsumasendai, Kagoshima prefecture, have already been reactivated despite protest from anti-nuclear activists.
"Nuclear power is indispensable for our country, which has few natural resources, to secure stable energy supplies while addressing climate change issues," Abe said.
He also claimed that a set of new safety standards introduced after the Fukushima disaster "are the strictest in the world" and that his government would promote the reactivation of reactors once they pass the screening by the national regulatory authorities. (IANS)