Eight years after devastating tsunami tragedy, Japan pays tearful tribute

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, lawmakers and family members who lost their loved ones in the disaster bowed their heads in prayer at a ceremony in Tokyo at 2:46 pm -- the exact moment the magnitude-9 quake struck.

Japan marks 8th anniversary of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster

With flowers, silent prayers and tearful tributes, Japan on Monday marked the eighth anniversary of a crippling earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster that devastated its northeastern coast and left some 18,500 people dead or missing.

(Photograph:AFP)

Family members pay tributes at a ceremony

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, lawmakers and family members who lost their loved ones in the disaster bowed their heads in prayer at a ceremony in Tokyo at 2:46 pm -- the exact moment the magnitude-9 quake struck.

(Photograph:AFP)

Tens of thousands still struggling in uncomfortable living conditions

Eight years on, PM Abe said reconstruction was making 'steady' progress but vowed to continue government support to tens of thousands still struggling in uncomfortable living conditions.

In a constant drizzle, residents in tsunami-hit coastal towns also laid bouquets and bowed their heads as they remembered the moment the waves hit, devastating entire communities in an instant.

(Photograph:AFP)

Tsunami sparked worst global nuclear disaster

In addition to causing widespread death and destruction, the killer tsunami also swamped the emergency power supply at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

This sent its reactors into meltdown as cooling systems failed, sparking the worst global nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

(Photograph:AFP)

Around 18,430 died or were missing

According to the National Police Agency, some 18,430 people died or were missing as a result of the earthquake and tsunami.

In addition, more than 3,700 people -- most of them from Fukushima -- died from illness or suicide linked to the aftermath of the tragedy, according to government data, while more than 51,000 still remain displaced.

(Photograph:AFP)

Authorities are encouraging evacuees to return

Although no-one is officially recorded as having died as a result of radiation from the accident, dozens of reactors across Japan were switched off in the aftermath.

The government has lifted evacuation orders for much of the region affected by the meltdown, except for some no-go zones with high radiation levels.

Authorities are encouraging evacuees to return, but the population in the Fukushima prefecture has more than halved from some two million in the pre-disaster period.

(Photograph:AFP)