As we commemorate the first anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, together with the people gathered here today, I would like to express my deepest condolences for the many people who lost their lives in this earthquake.
A year ago today, Japan was struck by an unexpectedly huge earthquake and tsunami, which resulted in almost twenty thousand dead and missing persons. We must not forget that this included many people, including fire fighters, who lost their lives as they devoted themselves to relief operations and disaster control without regard for their own safety.
As this earthquake and tsunami caused the nuclear power plant accident, those living in areas designated as the danger zone lost their homes and livelihoods and had to leave the places they used to live. In order for them to live there again safely, we have to overcome the problem of radioactive contamination, which is a formidable task.
After the earthquake, many people, including members of the Government and the local authorities as well as many volunteers, went to the afflicted areas and carried out various efforts to support the afflicted people. I am sure their activities helped to comfort the evacuees living under harsh conditions and encouraged them to think positively about the future. I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest gratitude to the people who have worked for the afflicted people and afflicted regions and those who have been trying to contain the damage from the nuclear power plant accident.
Many people overseas responded to the disaster by sending us relief teams and offering us help in various ways. In many cables of sympathy I received from the foreign heads of state, they commented that they were truly impressed by how, under severe conditions, the afflicted people were helping each other and working towards reconstruction with a strong sense of solidarity. I am deeply grateful to the kindnesses shown by the people around the world.
It is expected that many difficult challenges lie ahead in the reconstruction of the afflicted areas. It is my hope that the people's hearts will always be with the afflicted people and the afflicted regions, and that everyone will continue to work towards improving the conditions of those areas. It is important for us to never forget this disaster and hand down the lessons we learned to future generations, and foster the proper attitude towards disaster prevention, with the aim of making our country a safer place.
In closing, I would like to express my hope that Japan will become once again a country where people can live with a sense of security and again offer my sincere condolences for all those who lost their lives in the Great East Japan Earthquake.