The southwestern Japanese prefecture of Kumamoto commemorated Thursday the sixth anniversary of a pair of quakes that killed 276 people in the region, as nearly 100 others still live in makeshift homes as reconstruction work continues.
"I believe that all of you who have gone through such a painful and sad experience are still moving forward strongly with your own feelings in your hearts," said Yoshimasa Mochida, 54, who lost his 70-year-old mother, at a ceremony held at the Kumamoto prefectural government office.
He said that he and his family members "pledge to move forward along with Kumamoto's reconstruction."
At the outset of the ceremony, at which attendance was limited for the third straight year due to the coronavirus pandemic, 30 people including bereaved families observed a moment of silence.
"It is our important responsibility to pass on the experience of the earthquake to the future, which will lead to the prevention and limiting of the damage of disasters at home and abroad," said Kumamoto Gov. Ikuo Kabashima in his speech.
On April 14, 2016, a magnitude 6.5 quake struck the region, followed by a M7.3 temblor two days later.
Some 43,000 houses in Kumamoto and neighboring Oita prefecture were completely or partially damaged by the quakes, with 50 people in Kumamoto dying directly from their impact including due to collapsed buildings.
More than 47,000 people were forced to take refuge in makeshift housing at one point, and 95 people in Kumamoto were still living in temporary homes as of late March.
Damaged infrastructure such as railways has been rebuilt, with a new 525-meter Aso bridge in the village of Minamiaso in Kumamoto replacing a collapsed bridge.
Kumamoto Castle, a popular tourist spot damaged by the quakes, has also been partially repaired and its keep was reopened to the public last June. However, full restoration is not expected to be completed until around 2037.