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KOBE (Kyodo) With challenges remaining, Kobe and its neighboring cities Monday commemorated the 16th anniversary of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake that left 6,434 people dead.

Some 5,000 people, including those who lost family members or friends in the disaster, gathered at a park in central Kobe to offer silent prayers at 5:46 a.m. — the time when the 7.3-magnitude quake devastated the port and its vicinity. Thousands of bamboo lanterns arranged in the shape of “1.17” were lit.

In a memorial address, Masae Ogawa, 47, who lost her mother in the quake, delivered a eulogy, reflecting on how her neighbors were involved in efforts to rescue her mother.

“On that day, seeds of appreciation were sown in my heart. The seeds have produced flowers. I would be happy if they turn into fruits and I can sow their seeds in (the hearts of) others,” she said.

Kobe Mayor Tatsuo Yada offered condolences to the victims at the ceremony and pledged to make more of the city’s buildings quake-proof to lessen the negative effects of future earthquakes.

But as the survivors age, the local governments areas are facing a host of difficult issues, such as how to assist people who were disabled or lost their homes in the disaster.

Kobe, the hardest-hit city, is also being urged to come up with a good way to preserve memories of the disaster for the next generation because the ratio of citizens who didn’t experience the earthquake reached around 40 percent this month.

Last year, the Hyogo Prefectural Government and the Kobe Municipal Government conducted their first survey of people who became disabled in the disaster, certifying 328 of them as having quake-caused disabilities that qualify them for assistance.

With the 20-year occupancy period for subsidized temporary housing provided to survivors set to expire in a few years, measures to enable their transition to other dwellings are also required.

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