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Japan Marks Fifth Anniversary of Deadly Tsunami

A woman puts flowers into the sea to pray for victims of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Sendai, northern Japan on March 11, 2016. A woman in Sendai, northern Japan, places flowers into the sea to remember victims of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. (Photo: TORU YAMANAKA /Getty Images)
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Japan marks the fifth anniversary of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that left more than 18,000 dead or missing. The natural disaster also led to meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in northern Japan.

Schools, businesses, government offices and Tokyo’s train system came to a halt at 2:46 p.m. local time, when the magnitude-9.0 earthquake struck, for a moment of silence.

Related: Radioactive Fukushima Tuna? Scientists Say Not to Worry

Cleanup and decontamination efforts continue at the power plant, and most of the 160,000 displaced local people haven't been able to return to their homes.

Radiation levels are dangerously high in the reactors. This week, there were reports of robots "dying" after the radiation destroyed their wiring. The robots were designed to swim through the now-defunct cooling pools and remove hundreds of melted fuel rods.

Currently, nearly 800,000 tons of tainted water is stored at the plant, but no plans have been made to dispose of it. Researchers at the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), the utility in charge of the site, continue to brainstorm ways to remove the melted fuel rods and radioactive water.

“Now it really does feel like the situation is settling down and we can look ahead,” Naohiro Masuda, head of decommissioning at Tepco, told the Guardian.

Related: Get the Facts About Earthquakes

What to do if there's a tsunami warning

Tsunamis are not normal ocean waves. They are caused by undersea earthquakes. Tsunami waves can travel hundreds of miles an hour in the ocean and reach a height of more than 100 feet, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Signs of an incoming tsunami include a sudden receding of the water (leaving seaweed, fish and reefs in its wake), an airplane-like roar from the ocean and waves on the horizon that look like a wall of water.

If you’re in a potential tsunami zone and you see any of these signs, immediately evacuate by foot to higher ground, advises the Federal Emergency Management Agency. If higher ground is too far away, climb a tree or grab something that floats, suggest experts at the U.S. Geological Survey.

Related: Tsunami Warning! Would You Know How to Survive?

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