TOKYO : 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.

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 p.m. the exact moment the magnitude  9.0  earthquake struck.

''We can't help but feel sorrow when we think about the suffering of those who lost beloved family members, relatives and friends,'' Abe said.

Eight years on, he 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 the 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.

Japan's ageing Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko did not attend the ceremony this year, but were represented by their second son, Prince Akishino and his wife Princess Kiko.

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


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