Nuclear blast (illustrative)
Nuclear blast (illustrative)iStock

At 2:46 p.m. on Thursday, Japan held a minute of silence to commemorate the devastating earthquake of March 11, 2011. The magnitude 9.0 quake set off a record tsunami which destroyed towns and resulted in the deaths of about 18,000 people, while also causing a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The disaster is viewed as the worst nuclear meltdown on record since Chernobyl.

In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, further explosions from the Fukushima plant released radiation into the air, while emergency crews worked day and night to contain the meltdown. Concern began to mount regarding the extent of damage caused by the earthquake and its aftermath. Fears of mass radiation reaching as far as the shores of North America were widespread at the time.

Besides the death toll from the tsunami, half a million local residents became displaced overnight. According to ABC News, it is estimated that an additional 3,700 residents of Fukushima prefecture succumbed to health issues caused by the disaster at later dates.

More than 40,000 former inhabitants of Fukushima prefecture who lived near the nuclear plant have yet to be given the green light to return home, with the area currently restricted due to worries about continued radiation.