Japan marks 12 years since 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident

Saturday marks 12 years since a massive earthquake and tsunami devastated northeastern Japan. The disaster triggered one of the world's worst nuclear accidents.

At 2:46 p.m. on March 11, 2011, a magnitude-9.0 quake struck off the coast, sending waves as high as 10 meters crashing into communities across the Tohoku region.

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant suffered a triple meltdown, releasing large amounts of radioactive substances.

Hundreds of thousands of people were forced to abandon their homes.

Statistics from the National Police Agency show 15,900 people died due to the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, and 2,523 people remain missing.

The number of evacuees whose deaths are certified as related to the disaster increased by six over the past year to 3,792.

As of last month, there were still 30,884 evacuees.

Last year, Japan's nuclear regulators announced that treated and diluted water from the crippled nuclear plant will be released into the ocean.

The water is pumped in to cool molten fuel. It mixes with rain and groundwater that has seeped into the damaged reactor buildings.

Japan's government says most radioactive substances have been filtered out of the water. The hydrogen isotope tritium remains but will be lowered to one-seventh of World Health Organization standards for drinking water.

The release is scheduled to begin this spring or summer. But local fishery industries oppose the plan. People in other countries have also expressed concern.

More than 300 square kilometers of land near the power plant are still classified as "difficult to return."