It was an unprecedented disaster that the world watched unfold in real time. A massive earthquake rocked Futaba, Japan, on March 11, 2011, which triggered a tsunami. The two natural disasters killed more than 18,000 people, the Associated Press reported
. But the chaos continued when a fire at the nearby Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant released radioactive material into the air and water. Three of the plant's reactors melted down, according
to the World Nuclear Association, making it one of the world's worst nuclear disasters.
Five years later, the effects are still being felt by residents. Many survivors are still not able to return to their homes.
"I want to go back to my beloved hometown, but we can't, there is too much radiation. Futaba town is my children's birthplace, it is sad we are not able to live there anymore," Maki Yokota, 30, told CNN
Children living in the area have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer at a much higher rate than their peers, according
to a study of data from the Fukushima Medical University. Cleaning up the radioactive material and rebuilding the area remain big challenges, and the plant's operator says it could take until 2050. Radioactive water is still piling up, by some estimates, at a rate of 300 tons per day, the Associated Press reported
Ahead, Refinery29 looks back at one of the world's nuclear disasters five years later. Caption: A woman throws flowers at Fukanuma beach on March 11 in Sendai, Japan. Friday marks the fifth anniversary of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster that killed thousands. Some 174,000 people have still not been able to return to their homes.
Editor's note: Captions were provided by Getty Images.