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Japan marks 5 years since the 3/11 disaster
Friday marks 5 years since a giant earthquake and tsunami hit northeastern Japan. The disaster led to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident. But reconstruction of disaster-hit areas has been continually delayed with more than 170,000 people still living in shelters or arranged housing.
The magnitude-9.0 quake struck in the Pacific off the coast of northeastern Japan at around 2:46 PM on March 11th, 2011. It generated a tsunami more than 10 meters high. The waves greatly damaged areas along the Pacific coast of eastern and northeastern Japan.
Areas around the quake's focal zone still experience temblors more frequently than before the disaster. The ground mainly in the northeastern region has moved east and still swells and sinks.
The National Police Agency says that, as of Thursday, the death toll stands at 15,894 in 12 prefectures. It adds that 2,561 remain missing in 6 prefectures.
The Reconstruction Agency says at least 3,407 people died in 10 prefectures due to health problems and other reasons related to their lives as evacuees.
The agency adds that as of February 12th, more than 174,000 people were living in temporary, rental or other housing as evacuees.
The agency says 14,466 housing units for disaster survivors who cannot afford to rebuild their homes had been completed by the end of January. That's 48 percent of over 29,900 such units the authorities plan to build.
The disaster led to meltdowns at 3 reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
The plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, is trying to figure out a way to remove the molten fuel from the reactors. The removal work is regarded as the toughest challenge in the process of decommissioning the reactors.
The utility plans to introduce robots for this work. But the task is behind schedule as authorities face difficulty in completing the preparations, including decontaminating areas around the reactors.
The amount of radioactive wastewater is increasing at the plant mainly because groundwater becomes contaminated when entering the buildings of the damaged reactors.
Last month, TEPCO finished the work of driving cooling pipes into the ground around the No.1 to No.4 reactor buildings to create an underground frozen soil wall.
The barrier is designed to block the inflow of groundwater. Workers are expected to start freezing soil around the buildings as early as this month.
There are nearly 800,000 tons of tainted water stored in more than 1,000 tanks at the plant. No concrete plans have been made to dispose of the water.
The period set by the government for intensive reconstruction will be over at the end of this month.
However, disaster-hit areas are seeing delays in the implementation of initial reconstruction plans for housing, seawalls, roads and other infrastructure.