|Japanese Emperor Akihito (L) and Empress Michiko leave a memorial ceremony in Tokyo, Japan, March 11, 2013. Japan on Monday marked the 2nd anniversary of 2011 devastating earthquake and tsunami which destroyed the country's northeast part and triggered the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl crisis in 1986. (Xinhua/Pool/Junji Kurokawa)
TOKYO, March 11 (Xinhua) -- Japan on Monday commemorated the second anniversary of 2011 devastated earthquake and tsunami which destroyed the country's northeast region, while reconstruction programs in the disaster-hit regions are slow and face serious difficulties.
In the National Theatre in central Tokyo, the government held a memorial ceremony Monday afternoon, with attendance of Emperor Akihito, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and people who lost their families in the catastrophe.
All participants in the event stood in silent tribute at 2:46 p. m., the time the 9.0-magnitude offshore temblor jolted Japan two years ago and left more than 18,000 people dead or missing.
Outside the theatre, people stopped their steps to mourn the victims of the catastrophe. In the Hibiya station in the capital, subway staff also reminded the passengers the coming of the moment that the disastrous quake hit the country.
Other memorial events were also held outside Tokyo, especially in three prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima that seriously damaged by the disastrous tsunami triggered by the earthquake.
The emperor said in the theatre that it is important for all Japanese to keep watching the disaster-affected people and to share their sadness as much as possible, adding the disaster told him the importance of protection from future natural disasters through various measures.
Saying at a press conference following the ceremony, Abe said that the March 11 disaster is still a long-going event and called the reconstruction is a "fight against time".
Earlier the day, Abe said in a video speech put on the website of the Prime Minister's Office that the government will accelerate reconstruction in the northeast region and continue to listen to people who were affected by the disasters.
He called on all Japanese to support the disaster-affected areas by visiting the regions and purchasing productions of the affected prefectures, adding reconstruction programs will nourish new hopes for Japan.
However, reconstruction programs in the tsunami-hit areas are still slow and face serious difficulties due to high cost and high dose of radioactive materials in the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant which crippled in the disaster.
About 315,000 people still live in temporary houses as of February, according to Japanese authorities, and about 57,000 residents, who were evacuated from their homes in Fukushima, have not returned to the prefecture due to high dose of radiation.
The government planned to build 24 thousands of state-run houses for the victims in the three prefectures but only 56 have completed as of March in the affected area. The Miyagi Prefecture could only complete about 70 percent of such building by 2015.
It will also take decades to decommission the nuclear reactors in the crippled plant, said Michio Ishikawa, chief advisor of the Japan Nuclear Technology Institute. Meanwhile, to decontaminate radioactive materials and compensate for victims would cost about 400 billion U.S. dollars.
A WHO report released last month specified the estimated risks of cancers, such as breast cancer, leukemia and thyroid cancer, increased for people in the most contaminated area in Fukushima, adding the risks are about one-half of those in the places with highest doses for people in the second most contaminated location in the prefecture.
Furthermore, the tsunami created about 16.3 million tons of waste, according to Japan's environment ministry, and only about 44 percent of the waste has been disposed as of 2012.
Although Abe's cabinet has adopt new measures such as allocating more budget and easily using of state subsidies to boost the programs, it still needs long time and great efforts to fulfill the projects.