September 11 marked the passing of six months since the Great East Japan Earthquake, and memorial services were held across Japan around 2:46 in the afternoon, the time when the massive quake struck on March 11, 2011.
The road to recovery is still a long and severe one. On September 6 the Kantei (Prime Minister's Office) announced that as a result of the disaster there were 15,769 dead, 4,227 missing persons, and 82,945 evacuees. In addition, reflecting the fact that the harsh employment situation is hindering people from rebuilding their lives, 153,173 persons in the disaster area applied for unemployment benefits in the period from March 12 to August 21. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has expressed his determination to tackle the employment problem, stating that "there can be no restoration of the disaster area without jobs."
Furthermore, the Cabinet Secretariat's Disaster Volunteers Liaison Office has announced that the number of volunteers taking part in efforts for the recovery of the disaster area has reached 722,800 persons. RENGO (Japanese Trade Union Organization), the national center, has also organized relief volunteers. As of September 4, about 5,700 volunteers had been dispatched by RENGO to the disaster area, where they have engaged in various relief activities. Expressions of appreciation for these efforts have been heard from both local governments and local residents.
Long and sustained support activities will be necessary in order for the victims of the disaster to restore composed lives. From now on also, RENGO will continue to assist them through the relief volunteer activities, fund-raising campaigns, and other efforts.