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May 30, 2017

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Japan marks 3rd anniversary of Tohoku earthquake

TOKYO/NAMIE, Japan--Japan observed a moment of silence Tuesday to mark the third anniversary of the quake-tsunami disaster which swept away thousands of victims, destroyed coastal communities, and sparked the nuclear emergency that forced a re-think on atomic power.

Survivors bowed deeply and joined hands at remembrance ceremonies in towns and cities around the disaster zone and in Tokyo, where Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko led tributes to those who died in Japan's worst peace-time disaster.

A national moment of silence followed the cry of tsunami alarm sirens which were set off at 2:46 p.m., the moment a 9.0-magnitude undersea quake hit.

Its raw force unleashed a towering wall of water that traveled at the speed of a jet plane to the coast. Within minutes, communities were turned to matchwood, and whole families drowned.

Giant waves also crashed into the Fukushima nuclear plant, sparking reactor meltdowns and explosions, and setting off the worst atomic crisis in a generation.

The crippled plant remains volatile and the complicated decommissioning process is expected to last for decades, as fears persist over the health effects of leaked radiation. Tens of thousands were evacuated from the stricken area.

As night fell, an event in a Fukushima park saw about 2,000 lit candles arranged to read "Fukushima 3/11."

"We must sincerely regret the accident and tackle the reconstruction by keeping the hardships faced by Fukushima people in mind," Naomi Hirose, head of embattled plant operator Tokyo Electric Power, told employees at the wrecked site.

In Tokyo, Emperor Akihito paid tribute to victims killed in the tragedy, and those struggling in its aftermath.

"Many still lead difficult lives in devastated areas and places that were evacuated," he said.

"I pray for a return of peaceful times."

Although no one died as a direct result of Fukushima, about 1,650 area residents passed away from complications related to stress and other problems following the accident.

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