Sun, Jan 18, 2015 - Page 4 News List

Japan marks 20th anniversary of Kobe earthquake

THE NEXT ‘BIG ONE’:Media reminded citizens of the earthquake-prone nation to remain vigilant, with geologists saying another major tremor is overdue


Relatives of earthquake victims light candles at Koyaike park in Itami, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan, on Friday on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the massive earthquake in Kobe. The Great Hanshin earthquake, which struck before dawn of Jan. 17, 1995, with a magnitude of 7.3, killed more than 6,400 people.

Photo: AFP

Japan yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of the Kobe earthquake that killed more than 6,400 people with renewed calls for the quake-prone nation to stay vigilant against the next “Big One.”

More than 14,000 people gathered to commemorate the victims in the western port city of Kobe, where a magnitude 7.3 earthquake hit at 5:46am on Jan. 17, 1995.

The quake, which killed 6,434 people, leveled much of the city and sparked a major review of earthquake preparedness in the island-nation, which suffers about one-fifth of the world’s most powerful tremors.

The warning was brought into reality four years ago when a magnitude 9 earthquake struck in March 2011, triggering a huge tsunami that smashed into the country’s northeast coast, killing around 18,000 people and creating the world’s worst nuclear emergency in a generation.

Kobe survivors and family members of victims gathered before dawn to lay bouquets and light thousands of candles in a park used as an evacuation center after the 1995 jolt.

Later, Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko attended a memorial ceremony in the city and offered a one-minute prayer with about 500 other participants.

“By learning lessons from the disaster we will do our best to build a community where we can live in safety,” Japanese Minister of State for Disaster Management Eriko Yamatani told those gathered at the ceremony.

The earthquake buried residents in flattened buildings and uprooted highway overpasses and train tracks, while fires raged through collapsed timber houses and acrid smoke darkened the sky.

Heavy damage to the harbor area, where nearly all of the 300 shipping berths were destroyed, dealt a severe blow to the city’s economy, sparking a population exodus over the following months and years.

Japanese broadcasters and newspapers reminded citizens of the high probability of another big quake, with geologists saying a major event is overdue.

“We want to speed up preparations for building a strong country against disasters,” the Asahi Shimbun said in an editorial.

“We cannot eliminate damage completely, but we can start making efforts any day now to reduce damage,” the daily said.

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