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Japan marks 26th anniversary of Great Hanshin quake

  • January 17, 2021
  • , Jiji Press , 1:37 p.m.
  • English Press

Kobe, Jan. 17 (Jiji Press)–With prayers for victims and a renewed determination to pass down memories and lessons, Kobe, capital of Hyogo Prefecture, and its vicinity marked the 26th anniversary on Sunday of the devastating earthquake that killed more than 6,400 people.
   

With Hyogo under the central government’s state of emergency over the novel coronavirus epidemic, memorial ceremonies were held on a reduced scale.
   

Before dawn, families of those killed in the Great Hanshin Earthquake and other people gathered in a park in central Kobe. With bamboo and paper lanterns, arranged to form the characters for “Ganbaro 1.17” (Let’s hang in there together, 1.17), lit up, they offered silent prayers at 5:46 a.m. (8:46 p.m. Saturday GMT), the time the temblor with a magnitude of 7.3 jolted the western Japan port city on Jan. 17, 1995. The event brought together about 2,500 people by 7 a.m.
   

In a ceremony organized by the Kobe city government, Midori Kaga, a 65-year-old classical Japanese dance master, attended as a representative of victims’ families.
   

She stopped short of reading out a memorial message for her daughter who died at age 6, in order to curb the number of ceremony participants to reduce infection risks. Her message was posted on the website of the city government.
   

“In the moment of silence, I prayed for the repose of my daughter’s soul,” Kaga told reporters after the ceremony. “I asked her to watch over us in this difficult time caused by the coronavirus.”
   

The Hyogo prefectural government and others also held a memorial ceremony, in front of a cenotaph in Kobe.
   

Noting the approach of the 10th anniversary of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, which devastated coastal areas of northeastern Japan, Hyogo Governor Toshizo Ido said in an address, “We the people of Hyogo need to be at the forefront of the (disaster reconstruction) efforts, using our experience and lessons from overcoming the earthquake and getting to our feet strongly.”
   

Fuka Onuma, a 14-year-old junior high school student from Kobe, said: “More than ever, we now need to think flexibly about preparing for disasters and mitigating disaster damage. I want to promote my activities as a junior leader of our disaster preparation project.”
   

This year, many memorial events were scaled down due to the coronavirus crisis. The Hyogo prefectural government canceled an event to walk an emergency evacuation route and a disaster drill, while the number of participants at an event organized by a civic group stood at some 70 pct of the previous year’s level.
   

xactly 26 years ago, Kobe and its surrounding areas were hit hard by a powerful earthquake that claimed 6,434 lives and injured 43,792 people. In the hardest hit areas, the quake registered 7, the highest on the Japanese seismic intensify scale, for the first time ever.

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