Japan mourns tsunami victims one year on

Girl prays for victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Iwaki Credit: Reuters

Japan has held a minute's silence for the thousands of people killed exactly one year ago today in a devastating earthquake and tsunami.

The powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0 struck at 5.46am British time on March 11th 2010.

Half an hour later the 75-foot tsunami ripped through coastal towns and villages leaving a trail of death and destruction.

This morning, as dawn broke survivors returned in the sleet and rain to where they once lived to offer up prayers for loved ones.

Almost 16,000 people died.

And even one year on authorities are still searching for 3,000 people who are missing.

Girl prays for victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Iwaki Credit: Reuters

In the port of Ofunato, hundreds residents dressed in black gathered at the town hall to lay white flowers at an altar dedicated to the town's 420 dead and missing.

Half a mile from the wrecked Fukushima plant, where reactor meltdowns triggered the world's worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl, residents of the abandoned town of Okuma were allowed back for a few hours to honour the dead.

Anti-nuclear protests have been taking place outside the headquarters of the Tokyo Electric Power Company.

Protestors claim that TEPCO's negligence was responsible for radiation leaking from the site.

160,000 people were evacuated from around the crippled power plant. Credit: Reuters

To mark the anniversary TEPCO has issued a fresh apology.

The nuclear plant's dismantling and the clean-up of an area the size of Luxembourg will take decades at an incalculable cost using technologies yet to be developed.