• Kyodo

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The city of Kobe and neighboring areas on Saturday marked the 20th anniversary of the magnitude-7.3 earthquake that claimed the lives of 6,434 people, with survivors and residents pledging anew to pass on the lessons learned from the disaster to younger generations.

At a commemorative event in central Kobe to pray for the victims, a moment of silence was observed at 5:46 a.m., the time the Great Hanshin Earthquake struck on Jan. 17, 1995.

Two decades after the quake, houses, infrastructure and businesses in Hyogo and surrounding prefectures have been rebuilt at a total cost of ¥16.3 trillion. But with over 40 percent of the residents of Kobe — where 4,564 were killed — having not experienced the disaster, there is concern it could be forgotten.

At the event in Higashi-yuenchi Park in central Kobe, around 10,000 bamboo lanterns were arranged, with some lit to form the date “1.17.”

As with last year, a separate set of bamboo lanterns were lit to honor victims of the massive March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami that devastated the Tohoku region.

At the gathering, a woman representing families who lost loved ones was to deliver a eulogy. For the first time, a representative of young people who turned 20 this year was also scheduled to speak.

The cities of Nishinomiya, Ashiya and Takarazuka in Hyogo are also holding memorial ceremonies this year, after halting them in 2006.

At a public facility in Kobe’s Chuo Ward, a memorial ceremony sponsored by the Hyogo Prefectural Government and other entities will be held for the first time in five years, attended by relatives of the victims, and Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.

Elementary school students from Kobe and areas affected by the March 2011 disaster are scheduled to sing a song dedicated to rebuilding efforts.

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