KOBE – The city of Kobe and surrounding areas marked the 21st anniversary Sunday of the magnitude 7.3 earthquake that killed 6,434 people and demonstrated the horror that can result from an urban disaster.
People who lost loved ones in the Great Hanshin Earthquake were among those who observed a moment of silence at 5:46 a.m., the exact moment when the temblor hit the major port city west of Osaka on Jan. 17, 1995.
At a park in downtown Kobe, family members of the quake victims and survivors lit candles in thousands of bamboo lanterns that were arranged on the ground to look like the kanji characters for “1.17” and mirai (future).
Hiromi Yamamoto, who lost her mother in the quake, told a gathering in the park that she intends to uphold the memory of “my mother, whom I love so much.”
Mayor Kizo Hisamoto said the city office will work to impart lessons learned from the quake to the next generation.
The early morning quake hit when much of the city was still asleep, trapping many people inside their homes and other buildings.
In addition to those killed, 40,000 people were injured and 640,000 buildings were damaged, including over 100,000 homes that were completely destroyed. As many as 310,000 people were forced to find emergency shelter.
Following the quake, studies found that roughly three-fourths of the victims either died from suffocation or were crushed to death while in old wooden houses or by falling furniture, which prompted a countrywide effort to make buildings more quake-resistant.