Pictures capture Japan’s heartbreak after tsunami

Mar 2, 2012, 3:39 PM

(AP) – It has been nearly one year since a monstrous earthquake triggered a tsunami that roared across Japan’s coast on March 11, 2011, transforming once-pristine and thriving towns into waterlogged wastelands and sparking the world’s worst nuclear crisis in a quarter-century.

In the last 12 months, some progress has been made in rebuilding lives, but much remains unfinished. Associated Press photographer David Guttenfelder, who chronicled the devastated towns in the aftermath of the disaster, has revisited these communities to see what has changed _ and what hasn’t.

Following are the captions for some of the images, captured through his lens. The numbers refer to the photos transmitted earlier:

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ADG103: The tsunami that slammed into Japan’s coastline one year ago was merciless, sparing little in its path. Homes were reduced to rubble, cars tossed about like toys, and boats _ such as this one photographed in Kesennuma, Japan, on March 28, 2011 _ flung from the sea into streets and onto roofs. The ocean’s fury, and the earthquake that preceded it, left around 19,000 people dead, hundreds of thousands homeless, and sparked the worst nuclear crisis the world had seen in a quarter century. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)

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ADG104: It has been one year since an earthquake and tsunami ravaged Japan’s coastal towns, killing 19,000 people. Most of the rubble that served as awful reminders of that day _ the splintered homes, the sodden family photos, the overturned cars _ has been removed. But some of the boats that were flung into neighborhoods _ such as this one photographed in Kesennuma, Japan, on Feb. 23, 2012 _ remain, providing a stark reminder of nature’s fearsome power. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)

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ADG101: When the wave came, many residents of the fishing town of Onagawa, Japan, ran for the safest place they knew _ their local nuclear power plant. Those who made it huddled inside as the tsunami roared through their town and down the coast, turning homes and businesses to rubble and killing around 19,000 people. When the survivors emerged from their shelters, they saw their streets littered with debris, such as this Onagawa street photographed on March 19, 2011. Almost everything they owned had been swept away. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)

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ADG102: One year after the earthquake and tsunami, much of the debris that covered this street in Onagawa _ pictured here on Feb. 22, 2012 _ has been cleared, and the splintered remains of shattered buildings scooped up and carted away. But Japan is still reeling from the disaster that killed around 19,000 people, and the task of rebuilding homes _ and lives _ has barely begun. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)

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ADG107: The earthquake and tsunami, which killed around 19,000 people, delivered one of their worst hits to the once-scenic, blue-collar fishing town of Minamisanriku, Japan, photographed here on March 15, 2011. The wall of water spared little in its path, sweeping away nearly every business and every job, and leaving more than half the town’s residents dead or homeless. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)

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ADG108: So much of Minamisanriku was gone: the city center was flattened, and City Hall reduced to its two front steps. One year after the earthquake and tsunami that killed 19,000 people, the streets are free of rubble, as seen here in this photograph taken Feb. 23, 2012. But questions remain about the viability of rebuilding this community _ leaving those who remain anxious about what the future holds. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)

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ADG105: When the shaking eased and the water receded, everything had changed along Japan’s coastline. Many who survived the earthquake and tsunami faced misery after misery: their homes were gone, their loved ones dead. Food and water were in short supply and power was knocked out, leaving survivors cut off from the rest of the world and in the dark as night fell. Around 19,000 people died, and those who survived in towns such as Minamisanriku _ pictured here on March 15, 2011 _ were left to wait _ and worry _ until help arrived.

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ADG106: One year after the earthquake and tsunami that killed around 19,000 people, there are a few hints of progress in Minamisanriku, seen here in this Feb. 23, 2012, photo. The main roads are free of debris, and some temporary houses have gone up. But many in Minamisanriku, and elsewhere across Japan’s battered coastline, remain in a hellish state of limbo. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)

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ADG109: In the days after the earthquake and tsunami ravaged Japan’s coastal towns, the bulldozers began to arrive, clearing away the rubble that littered the roads, such as this street in Kesennuma, Japan, photographed on March 17, 2011. Those tasked with clearing away the wreckage faced a monstrous task: towering piles of twisted metal and wood, boats perched atop roofs, mountains of family heirlooms, sodden furniture and children’s toys. They also faced the grim reality that many of the 19,000 people killed lay entombed in the rubble, waiting to be discovered. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)

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ADG110: One year after the earthquake and tsunami that killed around 19,000 people in Japan, most of the streets _ such as this one in Kesennuma, photographed on Feb. 23, 2012 _ are free of rubble. But much of the debris has yet to be destroyed, and instead sits in mountainous piles in temporary holding areas. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)

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ADG111: In the days after the disaster, many survivors of the earthquake and tsunami wandered amid the wreckage, weeping as they searched for missing loved ones who were swept off their feet by the torrent of water that roared across the coast. Tayo Kitamura, 40, was captured in this March 19, 2011, image, kneeling in the street of Onagawa, kissing and talking to the wrapped body of her 69-year-old mother Kuniko Kitamura, after Japanese firefighters discovered the dead woman inside the ruins of her home. Many others, though, searched for their loved ones in vain. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)

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ADG112: One year later, more than 3,200 people presumed killed in the earthquake and tsunami have yet to be found. They are among the 19,000 people who lost their lives on March 11, 2011. Today, there are glimmers of hope _ such as this newly-built home photographed on Feb, 22, 2012, in the now-cleared but destroyed area of Onagawa, Japan. Still, most communities remain unrecognizable _ and their residents’ futures uncertain. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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Pictures capture Japan’s heartbreak after tsunami