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RIKUZENTAKATA, Japan - Across Japan, people marked the anniversary of the March 11, 2011, disaster that killed just over 19,000 people and unleashed the world's worst nuclear crisis in a quarter century.

People paused at 2:46 p.m. -- the moment the magnitude-9.0 quake struck a year ago -- for moments of silence, prayer and reflection about the enormous losses suffered and monumental tasks ahead.

Japan must rebuild dozens of ravaged coastal communities, shut down the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant and decontaminate radiated land so it is inhabitable again.

These are enormous burdens on a country already straining under the weight of an aging, shrinking population, bulging national debt and an economy that's been stagnant for two decades.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda reminded the Japanese people that they have overcome many disasters and difficulties in the past and pledged to rebuild the nation so it will be reborn as an even better place

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