The earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11, 2011, lasted for many terrifying minutes. But the multiple nuclear meltdowns that followed created an emergency that lasted for weeks and a legacy that will last for decades.
Here's how the event unfolded. The tsunami knocked out power to the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. As a result, the cooling systems failed and three reactors melted down. Steam laced with radioactive material poured into the air. Water contaminated with radiation also flowed into the sea.
Teacher Dave Rowlands is talking to his students in a kindergarten class at Imagine Japan, an English-language school in the Miyagi Prefecture of Sendai City. The school is just a short walk from pre-fabricated homes built for families who lost more than just property in the earthquake and tsunami last year.
"What came after the earthquake, was what?" Rowlands asks. "A tidal wave. In Japanese, what do we say? Or in English, actually, tsunami is now used around the world in many languages. Tsunami. We kind of leave the 't' off of there."
Credit Toru Yamanaka and Roslan Rahman / AFP/Getty Images
On March 11, 2011, at 2:46 p.m. (JST) Japan changed as a nation. A magnitude 9.0 earthquake, the largest to ever hit the island nation, and subsequent tsunami claimed more than 16,000 lives. One year later, the recovery efforts continue, as does the mourning.
A year after suffering the worst nuclear accident in its history, Japan is still struggling to understand what happened at the Fukushima nuclear plant in the country's northeast.
Last week, an independent commission released a report arguing that Japan narrowly averted what could have been a far deadlier disaster and that the government withheld this information from the public.
One year ago this Sunday, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake off Japan triggered a tsunami that killed 20,000 people. It also triggered multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station, one of the worst nuclear disasters in history.
But health effects from radiation turn out to be minor compared with the other issues the people of Fukushima prefecture now face.