As the 10th anniversary of the 2011 quake-tsunami disaster approaches, Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako are considering meeting with survivors online as the coronavirus pandemic makes it difficult for them to visit northeastern Japan, an Imperial Household Agency source said Wednesday.

Online conferences with residents of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima — the prefectures hit hardest by the March 11 disaster that triggered a nuclear crisis — are expected to start in mid-February, according to the source.

The emperor and empress, who visited the region when they were crown prince and crown princess, are expected to pray for victims and offer words of encouragement to the survivors.

Former Emperor Akihito and former Empress Michiko made frequent visits to the disaster-stricken region during their reign. The current emperor ascended to the throne following his father's abdication in April 2019.

If the government holds a ceremony on March 11 to commemorate the disaster's 10th anniversary, the emperor and the empress plan to attend, according to the source.

Last year, a state-sponsored memorial ceremony that had been held every year in Tokyo since 2012 was canceled for the first time due to the pandemic.

In January, the emperor and the empress met online with residents of Kumamoto Prefecture, where torrential rains left many dead or missing last July.