Japan marks 7th anniversary of tsunami that killed 18,000

They bowed their heads, hands clasped or palms firmly pressed together. They stood in grassy areas or roadsides overlooking the choppy sea. In Japan's capital, they lit candles and offered flowers. Some dabbed at tears.

Japanese marked the seventh anniversary Sunday of a tsunami that took more than 18,000 lives on the northeast coast and triggered a nuclear disaster that turned nearby communities into ghost towns.

Residents along the coast gathered outdoors to remember the tragedy as sirens wailed at 2:46 p.m., the moment the magnitude 9.0 offshore earthquake struck on March 11, 2011, setting off a massive tsunami.

The tsunami overwhelmed sea walls and washed away buildings, cars and entire neighborhoods as it swept inland. It knocked out power at the seaside Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, causing partial meltdowns in three reactors.