Sixteen years have passed since a devastating earthquake hit Kobe on Jan. 17, 1995, killing 6,434 people and injuring some 44,000 others. In 2010, the Hyogo prefectural government and the Kobe city government for the first time designated 328 people as having become disabled due to the quake. But 121 have since died.

Some 40 percent of Kobe’s residents have either been born in the city or moved to it since the earthquake. Since they did not experience the quake, it is all the more important to hand down the experience to them and improve anti-disaster education.

The Japanese should not forget that many people are still suffering from the damage caused by the earthquake. More than 50,000 people borrowed disaster relief loans in Hyogo Prefecture. Although it was originally expected that they would pay back the loans in 10 years, more than 10,000 people had yet to repay them as of the end of March 2010.

People living in low-rent residences provided by local governments are required to leave them between fiscal 2016 and fiscal 2020. But a survey shows that some 670 households cannot move to new residences because of health reasons. Some people live alone. Communities and local governments need to help them with their physical and psychological health.

Of the fatal victims in the Kobe earthquake, those who were 65 years old or older accounted for more than 40 percent. Most of them died when they were pinned down by fallen structures or furniture. Local governments need to prepare lists of elderly citizens who will need help in the event of a future major natural disaster. They also have to secure a sufficient number of people who will go to help them when a need arises.

Both depopulated and urban areas need well thought-out rescue plans. It is reported that there are some 17,000 village communities that could be isolated if hit by a major disaster. Destruction of advanced traffic and communications systems can cause great confusion. The government sector, citizens and researchers need to make steady efforts to minimize damage from disasters.

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