Asia

Masahiro Imamura: Japanese minister quits over Fukushima comments

Japan's State Minister in charge of Reconstruction Masahiro Imamura speaks at a news conference at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's official residence on 3 August, 2016. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Imamura submitted his letter of resignation on Wednesday

Japan's reconstruction minister has resigned after making a remark that was seen as offensive to those affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Masahiro Imamura said "it was rather good" that the north-east of the country was hit, as an earthquake near Tokyo would have caused huge financial damage.

He made the comment at a party for lawmakers on Tuesday.

Public broadcaster NHK aired a video of the remark sparking outrage.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was also at the event, later apologised for Mr Imamura's words.

The 2011 earthquake was accompanied by a devastating tsunami that triggered a nuclear disaster in Fukushima in the Tohoku region.

"Even in Tohoku, that terrible damage of 25 trillion yen (£175bn; $225bn) was incurred. If it hit places near the Tokyo area, it would have been an unimaginable disaster. That's what I meant to say," he later clarified.

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Media captionFootage shows the moment the tsunami reached the port of Miyako

Mr Imamura submitted his letter of resignation on Wednesday, which Mr Abe accepted. Liberal Democratic party lawmaker Masayoshi Yoshino was appointed the new reconstruction minister.

The magnitude 9 earthquake left more than 18,000 people dead or missing. It triggered meltdowns at three reactors in the Fukushima power plant - creating the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.

Many businesses in the area are still struggling to recover six years on.

Over 200,000 people were evacuated from a 20km (12 mile) area around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Many of them have given up hope of ever returning home.

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