Many held a moment of silence in towns and cities across Japan this week. Those in remembrance thought back to the moment of 2:46 p.m. on March 11, 2011, when a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck Japan, generating a large tsunami.
Too often important stories are forgotten in news after they first emerge. Follow-up articles are scarce, especially today with the advent of the internet where the 24-hour news cycle has become stale in a manner of seconds.
That moment of silence marked the second year since an incredibly damaging earthquake and tsunami in Japan, where nearly 19,000 were dead or missing afterwards. What’s more is that over 300,000 people are still displaced, living in temporary housing and looking to rebuild their lives. Now is a good opportunity to revisit that story.
Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, spoke on March 11 in a Tokyo memorial service, promising to speed up repair and reconstruction efforts.
“Our ancestors have overcome many difficulties and each time emerged stronger,” Abe said. “We pledge anew to learn from them and move forward, holding each other’s hands.”
Rebuilding is slow however, especially in the northeast of Japan where local industries are struggling and a large portion of the population is aging fast.
In the two years since the quake hit, Japan has struggled to rebuild. In Fukushima prefecture, the same region as the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant that experienced meltdowns in three reactors after the tsunami disabled its cooling systems, about half of the displaced — roughly 160,000 — are unsure whether they can ever return to homes around the plant because of concerns over potential exposure to radiation. Many of them have filed a lawsuit for compensation for losses against the government and the former plant’s operator.
Since Japan was struck, U.S. citizens have given $712.6 million to Japan to help with relief efforts. According to an article City on a Hill Press published soon after the disasters, Santa Cruz sent $5,250 to its Japanese sister city, Shingū by March 28, 2011. While the southern Japanese city was not immediately affected by the tsunami and earthquake, Shingu’s domestic sister city Natori was and the funds donated went there. Donations were used to buy food and water, and even emergency teams of firefighters and volunteers to help with the relief efforts.
With the cost from the tsunami’s damages still mounting, this support must continue. Cracks remain in pavement, buildings and railways have gone unrepaired and people are waiting for help. In 2011, Santa Cruz helped Shingū send support to those who need it. We must continue to do so.