SENDAI (Kyodo) A memorial ceremony took place Sunday in Kurihara, Miyagi Prefecture, on the first anniversary of a powerful earthquake that killed 15 people and left eight others missing in the northeastern Japanese prefecture and its vicinity.

Prior to the event, local residents, including those who are still taking shelter at evacuation facilities, observed a moment of silence at 8:43 a.m. — the time the magnitude 7.2 temblor hit the area a year ago.

At the ceremony, Kurihara Mayor Isamu Sato said, “We still have a long way to go, but it is my mission to achieve reconstruction as soon as possible.”

Representing the bereaved families, Akio Sugawara, 53, whose mother and older brother died at a hot-spring inn that collapsed in Kurihara, said, “I cannot forget seeing my mother being buried in a landslide in front of my eyes. I still have a big hole in my heart.”

In May, the search for two of the missing people resumed at the site of the hot-spring inn, where they were working. The whereabouts of six others when the quake struck were unknown.

In Oshu, Iwate Prefecture, a disaster drill was held at the time of the quake, which measured upper 6 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale of 7 in Kurihara and Oshu.

All the evacuees in Iwate Prefecture have been allowed to return to their homes. But in Miyagi Prefecture, 21 households in Kurihara are still taking refuge in shelters, with evacuation directives expected to be lifted in August or later.

Of the 15 fatalities, 12 were in Miyagi Prefecture, two in Iwate Prefecture and one in Fukushima Prefecture.

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