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Japan tsunami: Three years on

A fishing vessel swept ashore by the tsunami following the March 2011 earthquake sits abandoned on a breakwater in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, on Monday, March 10, 2014.

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The road to reconstruction

Japan marks the three-year anniversary of the deadly earthquake and tsunami that ravaged its northeast coast, sparking the world's biggest nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986 and leading to a global reassessment of atomic energy.

The double disaster – an 8.9 magnitude earthquake that unleashed a 10-meter-high tsunami – swept away entire towns and villages taking the lives of nearly 16,000 people.

It also devastated the Fukushima nuclear plant north of Tokyo, which went through reactor meltdowns and explosions that spewed radioactive material, forcing more than 150,000 people from their homes.

The government last year expanded its reconstruction budget to 25 trillion yen from 19 trillion yen. However, progress has been slow amid a shortage of skilled workers and materials.

Today, tens of thousands of people still remain in cramped temporary housing, while others have found shelter in new cities or with relatives.

Meanwhile, the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is making a national push to revive Japan's nuclear energy program, upsetting the public who want the government to pull the plug on nuclear power for good.

Click ahead for images of the affected areas, the ongoing search for missing people and the state of the Fukushima nuclear plant three years on from the disaster.

By CNBC's Ansuya Harjani

Posted 11 March 2014

Kiyoshi Ota | Bloomberg | Getty Images