Last weekend marked the 21st anniversary of the Great Hanshin Earthquake, also known as the Kobe Earthquake.
On January 17, 1995, at 5:46am, this Richter Scale 7.3 quake shook the city for only for a few seconds but resulted in the death of more than 6,400 people and the displacement of more than 250,000.
The anniversary was marked by the pre-dawn lighting of thousands of candles in bamboo lanterns, at the local Higashi Yuenchi park. The lanterns were arranged in the shape of the date of the earthquake and the Kanji symbols for mirai (future).
Last month I visited the “Disaster Recovery and and Human Renovation Institute” here in Kobe. It is both a museum of the Kobe Earthquake, but also a research centre for disaster preparedness and recovery. The tour begins with a movie simulating the fatal seconds of the earthquake, and then visitors go through two fact-filled floors explaining its effects and and the long, but remarkable, period of recovery. It is hard to grasp the hardships that the population of Kobe went through during the aftermath of the earthquake.
Living in Kobe today one does not see any signs of the disaster that struck this lovely city only two decades ago. In the port of Kobe the authorities left one small area untouched, as a monument to the devastation that hit the area.
I enjoy living in this city and I can only hope that the preparedness efforts in this earthquake-prone country will help avoid disaster on such scale in the future.