Japan mourns deaths of quake-tsunami victims on 6-month anniversary


SIX MONTHS AFTER 3/11 — Photo taken from a Kyodo News helicopter on Sept. 10 shows an area in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, about 6 months after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated there. Kyodo News photo

SENDAI (Kyodo) — Residents in a wide area of northeastern Japan ravaged by the March 11 quake and tsunami held ceremonies on Sept. 11, the six-month anniversary, in memory of the victims of the massive calamities, offering silent prayers at 2:46 p.m., the time when the magnitude 9.0 temblor occurred.

Others took part in a rally held to oppose nuclear power, after the March disasters also caused the worst disaster at a nuclear power plant since Chernobyl.

Jin Sato, mayor of Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, one of the three prefectures most severely devastated by the disasters, spoke at a ceremony at the Bayside Arena gym after attendees offered silent prayers for the repose of the victims’ souls.

After recounting his memories of the immediate aftermath of the tsunami that submerged a large part of his town, Sato, his voice choking with emotion, told the audience, “Although numerous hardships are awaiting us in our road toward reconstruction, let us pledge that we will build up a new town on the basis of the solidarity of our townsfolk.”

The earthquake and tsunami killed 15,782 people in 12 of Japan’s 47 prefectures, while leaving 4,086 people still missing as of Sept. 11, according to the National Police Agency.

In Miyagi where more than 2,000 people remain missing, the prefectural police organized a special search party Sept. 11 to scour both coastal waters and shore areas for remains.

In Miyako, Iwate Prefecture, another town devastated by the massive tsunami wave, townsfolk gathered at the Yokoyama Hachimangu shinto shrine to pray for divine assistance in reconstructing the devastated city.

The prayer service was timed to coincide with the shrine’s annual autumn festival, with some 180 local residents carrying a portable shrine through the town’s streets.

The twin disasters damaged more than 60 percent of the buildings in the neighborhood inhabited by the shrine’s parishioners.

A 74-year-old man who is the representative of the parishioners said of the festival, “We hope to bolster the spirits of people who lost their homes and family members to the disasters as much as possible.”

Meanwhile, Toshio Nishizawa, president of Tokyo Electric Power Co., released a press statement to mark the six-month anniversary of the nuclear crisis at the utility’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station triggered by the March 11 natural disasters.

“We offer our most heart-felt apology again to both Fukushima Prefecture residents and Japanese people to whom we have caused serious troubles and anxieties,” Nishizawa said in the statement.


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