People along Japan's tsunami-battered northeast coast and elsewhere across the country have observed a moment of silence to mark the exact time a massive earthquake struck the nation one year ago.

The magnitude-9.0 quake on March 11, 2011, triggered a terrifying tsunami that devastated the northeastern coast, killing just over 19,000 people and unleashing a nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant.

At 2:46 p.m. Sunday in the coastal town of Rikuzentakata, a siren sounded and a Buddhist priest in a purple robe rang a huge bell at a damaged temple overlooking a barren area where houses once stood.

At the same time in Tokyo's National Theater, Emperor Akihito and Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda stood in silence with hundreds of other people at a memorial service.

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