Today marks 10 years since an earthquake and subsequent tsunami devastated Fukushima in Japan, killing 18,000 people, destroying towns and triggering the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
At 2:46 pm, the strongest Japanese earthquake ever recorded struck off the northern coast and created monstrous waves up to 16 meters high. On detecting the earthquake, the active reactors automatically shut down, which sparked the meltdown of three nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, at the time one of the largest nuclear power plants in the world. The explosions of the reactors released large quantities of radiation that contaminated a vast area of northern Japan.
A decade later, the deep scar left by the disaster is still visible. While the Japanese government has spent about $300 billion to rebuild the region, some areas still remain inaccessible due to radioactivity and some 40,000 people are still displaced. The government is also still working on decommissioning the wrecked plant and decontaminating water and waste — a daunting task which officials say will take another 30 to 40 years.
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