'I am praying for the nation,' Japan's Emperor Akihito tells his stricken people

Stoic survivors bravely try to mend shattered lives

In his long life, Japan's Emperor Akihito has always been a focal point for courage and hope in the country's darkest moments.

After a devastating earthquake in 1995, which devastated the western city of Kobe, killing over 6, 400 people, the royal led the mourning. 

The 77-year-old monarch – who is held in deep respect by his people – visited bereaved families and listened teary-eyed as they talked about their loved ones.

So a rare television address on Wednesday by the emperor about the current crisis was, no doubt, of great comfort to a nation, suffering its biggest disaster in 100 years.




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His comments came as temperatures drop below freezing and thick snow begins to fall over north-east Japan, dramatically lowering the chances of finding more survivors.

He expressed his condolences to the victims and urged his people not to give up.

"I hope from the bottom of my heart that the people will, hand in hand, treat each other with compassion and overcome these difficult times,' he said.




The speech also reflected concern about radiation leaks at a nuclear power plant damaged in the disaster.

"I am deeply concerned about the nuclear situation because it is unpredictable.

"With the help of those involved I hope things will not get worse."

He went on to thank military, police, fire departments and all those involved in disaster relief operations, including foreign governments.

"I wish to thank them for their rescue efforts around the clock."


Friday's earthquake-turned-tsunami has devastated Japan's north-east coastline and the death toll is estimated to be over 10, 000, with 4,000 bodies found and 7,000 people still missing.

"I pray for the safety of as many people as possible," he said.

The current sovereign acceded to the throne in 1989 following the death of his father Emperor Hirohito.

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