(TOKYO) — Services were held in Japan on Monday to mark the second anniversary of a devastating earthquake and tsunami that took nearly 19,000 lives and triggered the worst nuclear power plant accident since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.
The entire Japanese nation paused for a moment of silence at 2:46 p.m. to mark the exact moment when a 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Northern Japan on March 11, 2011. Memorial ceremonies took place in several locations around the country, including areas along the coast that were overwhelmed by the killer tsunami that followed the quake. Tens of thousands of people remain displaced because their communities were washed away by the tsunami.
The tsunami also battered the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, triggering meltdowns in three reactors and the release of deadly radiation into the air. Some 160,000 people were forced to evacuate the region surrounding the power plant. They have not been allowed to return to their homes.
Eight hundred evacuees displaced by the nuclear disaster filed a class-action lawsuit against the plant operator and the Japanese government on Monday. The victims are demanding that the land, their homes and the natural environment be restored to pre-disaster conditions. They’re also seeking medical compensation related to radiation exposure and the stress of being displaced.
The plaintiffs, which include housewives, fishermen and farmers, are demanding a monthly payment of 50,000 yen, approximately $540, in addition to the monthly $1,000 compensation they already receive.
Japan’s 50 nuclear reactors were shut down for inspection after the deadly quake, and only two have been put back into service. On Sunday, thousands of people marched in the streets of Tokyo, calling for an end to the use of nuclear power in Japan.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Michael Pearson, Faith Karimi and Ian Lee, CNN
Euan McKirdy and Natalie L. Gallón, CNN