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Tsunami scars linger a decade later in Japan

These arresting images were captured by The Associated Press in 2011 after a massive wall of water leveled part of Japan’s northeastern coast, washing away cars, homes, office buildings and thousands of people. Ten years later, AP journalists have returned to document the communities that were ripped apart by what’s simply referred to here as the Great East Japan Earthquake. The urge to rebuild in a land that has been wracked by millennia of disaster — volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, earthquakes, war and famine — is powerful, and there are areas where there’s little or no trace of the devastation of 2011.

March 11, 2021 / 05:28 PM IST
The triple disaster in the Tohoku region of Japan — earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown — has been unlike any Japan has faced before, and the challenges of returning to what was normal a decade ago have been immense. Half a million were forced from their homes; tens of thousands have not returned, emptying towns that were already struggling to keep their young people from leaving for Tokyo and the other megacities. Radiation fears linger. Government incompetence, petty squabbling and bureaucratic wrangling have delayed building efforts. Despite the setbacks and uneven progress, the Tohoku of 2021 is a testament to a collective force of will — national, local and personal. Look closely, though, and you’ll see that even the most breathtaking transformations carry the residue of what happened in 2011, the scars of that deep wound to the region’s psyche. All of that, and more, is present in these powerful scenes of before and after, then and now. The pictures tell the story of great change and how the region has evolved in ten years after the disaster. (Image: AP)
The triple disaster in the Tohoku region of Japan — earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown — has been unlike any Japan has faced before, and the challenges of returning to what was normal a decade ago have been immense. Half a million were forced from their homes; tens of thousands have not returned, emptying towns that were already struggling to keep their young people from leaving for Tokyo and the other megacities. Radiation fears linger. Government incompetence, petty squabbling and bureaucratic wrangling have delayed building efforts. Despite the setbacks and uneven progress, the Tohoku of 2021 is a testament to a collective force of will — national, local and personal. Look closely, though, and you’ll see that even the most breathtaking transformations carry the residue of what happened in 2011, the scars of that deep wound to the region’s psyche. All of that, and more, is present in these powerful scenes of before and after, then and now. The pictures tell the story of great change and how the region has evolved in ten years after the disaster. (Image: AP)
In this March 14, 2011 photo, evacuees rest in a shelter in Soma city, Fukushima prefecture, Japan, three days after a massive earthquake and tsunami struck the country's north east coast. A hydrogen explosion occurs at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant’s No. 1 reactor, sending radiation into the air. Residents within a 20-kilometer (12-mile) radius are ordered to evacuate. Similar explosions occur at two other reactors over the following days. (Image: AP)
In this March 14, 2011 photo, evacuees rest in a shelter in Soma city, Fukushima prefecture, Japan, three days after a massive earthquake and tsunami struck the country's north east coast. A hydrogen explosion occurs at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant’s No. 1 reactor, sending radiation into the air. Residents within a 20-kilometer (12-mile) radius are ordered to evacuate. Similar explosions occur at two other reactors over the following days. (Image: AP)
Vehicles pass through the ruins of the leveled city of Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, northeastern Japan on March 15, 2011, four days after the Tsunami devastated the area. (Image: AP)
Vehicles pass through the ruins of the leveled city of Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, northeastern Japan on March 15, 2011, four days after the Tsunami devastated the area. (Image: AP)
A survivor of the earthquake and tsunami rides his bicycle through the leveled city of Minamisanriku, in northeastern Japan, four days after the Tsunami, March 15, 2011. (Image: AP)
A survivor of the earthquake and tsunami rides his bicycle through the leveled city of Minamisanriku, in northeastern Japan, four days after the Tsunami, March 15, 2011. (Image: AP)
A survivor of the earthquake and tsunami rides his bicycle through the leveled city of Minamisanriku, in northeastern Japan, four days after the Tsunami, March 15, 2011. (Image: AP)
A survivor of the earthquake and tsunami rides his bicycle through the leveled city of Minamisanriku, in northeastern Japan, four days after the Tsunami, March 15, 2011. (Image: AP)
A survivor of the earthquake and tsunami rides his bicycle through the leveled city of Minamisanriku, in northeastern Japan, four days after the Tsunami, March 15, 2011. (Image: AP)
A survivor of the earthquake and tsunami rides his bicycle through the leveled city of Minamisanriku, in northeastern Japan, four days after the Tsunami, March 15, 2011. (Image: AP)
In this March 28, 2011 image, a ship sits in a destroyed residential neighborhood in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, northeastern Japan, after a powerful tsunami hit the area on March 11. (Image: AP)
In this March 28, 2011 image, a ship sits in a destroyed residential neighborhood in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, northeastern Japan, after a powerful tsunami hit the area on March 11. (Image: AP)
Nearly a year after the disaster, ship sits in a destroyed residential neighborhood in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, north-eastern Japan, almost a year after an earthquake and tsunami ravaged the country's coastline, February 23, 2012. (Image: AP)
Nearly a year after the disaster, ship sits in a destroyed residential neighborhood in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, north-eastern Japan, almost a year after an earthquake and tsunami ravaged the country's coastline, February 23, 2012. (Image: AP)
On February 23, 2012, vehicles pass through the ruins of the leveled city of Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, northern Japan, almost one year after the March 11, 2011 tsunami. (Image: AP)
On February 23, 2012, vehicles pass through the ruins of the leveled city of Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, northern Japan, almost one year after the March 11, 2011 tsunami. (Image: AP)
On February 23, 2012, vehicles pass through the ruins of the leveled city of Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, northern Japan, almost one year after the March 11, 2011 tsunami. (Image: AP)
On February 23, 2012, vehicles pass through the ruins of the leveled city of Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, northern Japan, almost one year after the March 11, 2011 tsunami. (Image: AP)
In this March 6, 2016 image, reconstruction process is seen at the 2011 tsunami destroyed residential neighborhood in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, north-eastern Japan. (Image: AP)
In this March 6, 2016 image, reconstruction process is seen at the 2011 tsunami destroyed residential neighborhood in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, north-eastern Japan. (Image: AP)
In this March 6, 2016 image, reconstruction process is seen at the 2011 tsunami destroyed residential neighborhood in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, north-eastern Japan. (Image: AP)
In this March 6, 2016 image, reconstruction process is seen at the 2011 tsunami destroyed residential neighborhood in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, north-eastern Japan. (Image: AP)
Nearly 10 years after the 2011 tsunami disaster, recovered streets are seen in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, north-eastern Japan, March 5, 2021. (Image: AP)
Nearly 10 years after the 2011 tsunami disaster, recovered streets are seen in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, north-eastern Japan, March 5, 2021. (Image: AP)
Tsunami destroyed residential neighborhood in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, northeastern Japan is seen on March 5, 2021. (Image: AP)
Tsunami destroyed residential neighborhood in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, northeastern Japan is seen on March 5, 2021. (Image: AP)
A woman walks through the city of Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, northern Japan, March 6, 2021, nearly ten years after the Tsunami. (Image: AP)
A woman walks through the city of Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, northern Japan, March 6, 2021, nearly ten years after the Tsunami. (Image: AP)
Vehicles pass through the streets in the city of Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, northeastern Japan, on March 6, 2021, nearly 10 years after the March 11, 2011 tsunami. (Image: AP)
Vehicles pass through the streets in the city of Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, northeastern Japan, on March 6, 2021, nearly 10 years after the March 11, 2011 tsunami. (Image: AP)
In this combination photo, from top left to bottom right, vehicles pass through the ruins of the leveled city of Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, northern Japan, on March 15, 2011, top, four days after the tsunami, and vehicles pass through the same area under construction on February 23, 2012, on March 7, 2016 and Saturday, March 6, 2021. (Image: AP)
In this combination photo, from top left to bottom right, vehicles pass through the ruins of the leveled city of Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, northern Japan, on March 15, 2011, top, four days after the tsunami, and vehicles pass through the same area under construction on February 23, 2012, on March 7, 2016 and Saturday, March 6, 2021. (Image: AP)
Associated Press

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