Kobe's Light of Hope memorial

Photo: Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images

A man clutches a candle at the Light of Hope memorial in Kobe, Japan on March 11 during one of many remembrance ceremonies organized for the third anniversary of the devastating 2011 Tōhoku earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis.

The magnitude-9.0 earthquake is considered to be the fifth most powerful earthquake to hit the Earth since record keeping began in 1900, but that's not even the worst of it. After striking 43 miles off the east coast of Japan, massive tsunami waves began to crash ashore, obliterating entire towns and killing thousands.

To make matters worse, the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant also suffered major damages, including evidence of partial meltdowns and radiation leaks. Residents living within the 12-mile radius of the plant were ordered to be evacuated, and today, 100,000 people remain in temporary housing.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan called the disaster "the toughest and the most difficult crisis for Japan" in the 65 years following the end of World War II.

In all, the death toll exceeds 18,500, though many bodies have yet to be found and the long-term effects of the disaster remain under speculation.

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Anti-nuclear protest in Japan

Photo: Toru Yamanaka/AFPGetty Images

Just a few days ahead of the third anniversary of the tsunami-linked disaster at the Fukushima plant, thousands of people participate in a rally denouncing nuclear power on March 9 in front of the National Diet Building in Tokyo.

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Young children praying for tsunami victims

Photo: Yuriko Nakao/Getty Images

Miyu, Ryoga and Mahiro Abe offer prayers to their grandmother and grandfather at the Kouganji Temple in Otsuchi, Iwate. Their grandparents lost their lives in the wake of the tsunami.

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Dove balloons at a tsunami memorial

Photo: Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images

Balloons shaped like doves are released into the air during a memorial service for tsunami victims at the site of the former Yuriage Junior High School, which was destroyed after the tsunami swept through the city of Natori in Miyagi, Japan.

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People hold hands on a beach in honor of the Japanese tsunami

Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images

Hundreds of people, including relatives of tsunami victims, stand hand-in-hand on the beach of Iwaki City as the sun rises in the Fukushima prefecture.

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Paper lantern memorial for the tsunami in Japan

Photo: Yuriko Nakao/Getty Images

A volunteer checks on paper lanterns during a memorial held in remembrance of tsunami victims at the former junior high school in Natori.

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People observe a moment of silence for the victims of the tsunami in Japan

Photo: Yuriko Nakao/Getty Images

Yui Goto and her son Kotaro embrace each other on Shobuta Beach in Shichigahama, Miyagi after observing a moment of silence at 2:46 p.m., the exact time when the earthquake struck the country three years ago.

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People at a memorial for the tsunami in Japan

Photo: Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images

An elderly couple pause to read the names of tsunami victims enscribed on a monument erected on the seashore of the Arahama district in Sendai, Miyagi, Japan.

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Police observe a tsunami memorial

Photo: Ken Iishi/Getty Images

A police officer lays a bouquet of flowers in honor of tsunami victims during a memorial in Fukushima, Japan.

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Catie Leary is a photo editor at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.