• Kyodo

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The population of Kobe, which was badly damaged by the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995, has topped the prequake level for the first time to mark a record high, municipal officials said Friday.

The city put the estimated population at 1,520,500 on Nov. 1, or about 200 more than recorded just before the magnitude 7.3 quake struck the western port city and its vicinity on Jan. 17, 1995.

While it took 10 years for Kobe to bring the overall number of residents up to the level before the earthquake, population in the southwestern part of the city has decreased, indicating regional disparities in the reconstruction process.

According to the city’s estimates, the population jumped by 20 percent from the prequake level in Nishi Ward and grew in Higashinada Ward by 6 percent, in Kita Ward by 4 percent and in Chuo Ward by 2 percent. On the other hand, Nagata Ward, which suffered massive fires immediately after the earthquake, had only 80 percent of the prequake population, and the figures for Hyogo, Suma and Tarumi wards also dropped by between 6 and 9 percent.

“Many new apartments were built in places such as Higashinada Ward after the earthquake, and many suburban residential areas were developed in Osaka, but we did not see this kind of trend in areas such as Nagata Ward,” a city official said.

The estimated population of Kobe exceeded 1.5 million for the first time in December 1992 and reached the previous record of 1,520,365 on Jan. 1, 1995. The figure fell to around 1.4 million in a census taken in October 1995.

The earthquake resulted in 6,433 deaths and injured more than 43,000 people. More than 55,000 people are estimated to have migrated out of Hyogo Prefecture after the earthquake.

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