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12 March 2012 | Vienna, Austria
Ceremony Commemorating First Anniversary of Great East Japan Earthquake

Statement at Ceremony Commemorating First Anniversary of Great East Japan Earthquake

by IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I echo the previous speakers in expressing my profound sympathy for all of the people of Japan over this terrible natural disaster, especially those who lost loved ones or their homes.

As Director General of the IAEA, I was closely involved in helping Japan to respond to one important aspect of the disaster - the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which was crippled by the earthquake and tsunami.

But as a citizen of Japan, and simply as a human being, I was deeply shocked and saddened by the devastation and the great loss of life which the disaster inflicted on my homeland. I was touched by the many expressions of sympathy directed to me personally here in Vienna. When I went to Japan several days after the disaster to meet the Prime Minister, I told him: "The world is with you."

This is not the occasion to talk in detail about the work done by the IAEA to help Japan deal with the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi Plant. I will just say that we have been a steadfast partner for Japan and will continue to do everything we can to help overcome the effects of the accident in the coming years.

Around 160 000 people were evacuated from the affected area. No-one was killed as a result of the release of radioactivity from the accident. The work of decontamination and remediation in the facility, as well as in the affected areas, will be very challenging.

I saw for myself just how powerful and destructive the earthquake and tsunami were when I visited the Fukushima Daiichi Plant in July. It was a sight which I will never forget. But I was also deeply impressed by the courage and dedication of the engineers and workers, who battled in unimaginably difficult conditions to restore control over the reactors.

I must also say that I was proud of all of my countrymen and women throughout the zone affected by the disaster. Their courage and dignity, the way communities came together to help each other, the absence of lawlessness - this was truly remarkable and admirable.

And it gives me confidence that Japan will quickly put this tragedy behind it - more quickly than most of us expect. The Japanese are a resilient people who are at their best in dealing with adversity. The Great East Japan Earthquake caused immense destruction. But, already, the people of Japan are working hard to rebuild the shattered towns and villages. A huge amount of cleaning up has already been done. Signs of recovery and reconstruction are unmistakeable.

The Agency has started preparations for helping the Japanese government to host a Fukushima Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety in Fukushima Prefecture in December.

I am confident that considerable progress will have been made by then in restoring normality throughout the entire region devastated by the disaster.

Thank you.