3/11: Japan Marks Anniversary of Meltdowns, Tsunami in Day of Mourning, Protest

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Common Dreams

3/11: Japan Marks Anniversary of Meltdowns, Tsunami in Day of Mourning, Protest

US: groups call for day of anti-nuclear activism

by
Common Dreams staff

On the first-year anniversary of the Fukushima tsunami disaster people gathered in Japan and around the world for a day of mourning and protest.

Agence France-Presse reports:

Japan fell silent on Sunday to honour the 19,000 people killed a year ago when a huge earthquake sent a tsunami barreling into the coast, sparking a nuclear crisis at Fukushima.

Tearful families gathered in the still shell-shocked towns and villages across the country's northeast to remember those lost when the towering tsunami smashed ashore.

At 2.46 pm (0546 GMT) much of the nation paused to mark the moment nature's fury was visited on Japan, when the 9.0-magnitude quake set off a catastrophic chain of events.

At a national ceremony of remembrance in Tokyo, Japan's mournful national anthem rang out before the prime minister and the emperor led silent prayers for those who lost their lives in the country's worst post-war disaster. [...]

Small rural towns along the coast that were turned to matchwood when the tsunami rolled in, wrecking whole neighbourhoods and wiping out communities, held their own emotional ceremonies. [...]

In the nearby city of Koriyama, monks banged drums and offered prayers ahead of an anti-nuclear protest rally, where numbers overwhelmed the seating available at a baseball stadium.

Organisers opened up parts of the stadium that have not yet been cleansed of radioactive fallout, asking participants with small children not to use the area, an AFP journalist said.

"We demand all children are evacuated from Fukushima now," said organiser Setsuko Kuroda.

"Some experts say one third of children in Fukushima were affected by radiation," she said. "Leaving the situation like this is like they are committing a murder every day."

Among those demonstrating were some of the nuclear refugees forced to flee their homes in the shadow of Fukushima Daiichi as it began venting toxic radiation over homes and farmland.

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The Japan Times reports:

A year later, recovery efforts continue but the pace remains slow and uneven. Officially, the death toll stands at 15,854, with another 3,155 missing . A total of 343,935 people have been evacuated, and more than 6,000 were injured.

Throughout the country Sunday, official and unofficial memorial ceremonies took place and moments of silence were observed at 2:46 p.m., the time the quake struck. In the devastated coastal city of Ishinomaki, Mayor Hiroshi Kameyama spoke at an event attended by over 2,200 people.

"We lost more than 3,000 residents, the greatest loss of life in any of the disaster areas. Although the Self-Defense Forces, police and rescue workers continue their search efforts, it is still hard to believe so many remain missing," he said.

At first glance, it appears parts of Ishinomaki are well along the road to recovery.

Bars, cafes, and restaurants around the main railway station are coming back to life again thanks, residents say, to an influx of people hired to remove the millions of tons of debris generated by the tsunami.

But physical reconstruction of the town, and the rebuilding of shattered lives, is expected to take years, if not decades. At least 3,280 Ishinomaki residents lost their lives and another 553 are still officially listed as missing. As of January, nearly 17,000 had not returned to the places where they lived before the quake and tsunami hit, and are now living in either prefabricated temporary housing or apartments. [...]

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Julian Ryall reports for the The Telegraph from the anti-nuclear protest in central Tokyo:

Hikari Hirono was looking forward to the protest in central Tokyo on Sunday afternoon because she wanted to hold hands in a human chain.

At the tender age of four-and-a-half, she was unaware of the significance of taking part in the anti-nuclear demonstrations organised to marked one year since an earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, but her mother is one of the growing number of Japanese who are only too aware of how their lives have changed in the last 12 moths.

"I didn't want to just watch the protests on television, as if nothing has happened or changed," said her mother, Yuko.

"I think opposition to nuclear power is growing," she said. "People used to feel safe and not say anything, but if you ask most people now they think differently.

"They want to shift to renewable energy, but that will not happen unless we act," said 34-year-old Hirono, a housewife from western Tokyo. "If we don't, I fear that the government will restart the nuclear power plants."

Organisers estimated that around 8,000 people attended, with the one-minute's silence at 2:46 pm - the exact time of the Great East Japan Earthquake 12 months ago - impeccably observed.

"Some people said we should not stage protests at this time as this is the anniversary of a day on which many people died in the disasters and that, instead, we should remember them," said Hirono.

"But there are others who say this day is very important and that it is the time for us to stand up and make our voices heard so that we can move forwards to a better future," she said. "We want something good to come out of this terrible situation.

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Reuters reports:

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In the US The Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) has called for a national day of action to protest Nuclear energy including protests, rallies, and flash mobs across the US and the world:

From Alabama to Wisconsin, Vermont to California and across the world, the first anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster will be marked by protests, rallies, flashmobs and other actions from the growing movement for a nuclear-free, carbon-free energy future.

NIRS has compiled a list of Fukushima anniversary actions in the U.S. here: http://www.nirs.org/action.htm. Local contacts and/or links are provided for the actions. Note that there is a link to a different page listing actions across the world, available in five languages.

The listed events include a wide variety of actions, from “die-ins” in several states to a mock “evacuation” of Vermont Yankee to rallies in California, New York and elsewhere. In Washington, DC, a goat named Katie, whose milk contained high levels of radioactivity when she lived near the Millstone Nuclear Power Plant in Connecticut and who has been stricken with inoperable cancer, takes her Farewell Tour to the White House on Sunday, March 11, at 12 noon.

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