Kobe marks 16th anniversary of Great Hanshin Earthquake

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Kobe (Japan), Jan 17 (Kyodo) The western Japan port cityof Kobe and its neighboring cities commemorated today the 16thanniversary of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake that claimed6,434 lives.

Some 5,000 people, including those who lost familymembers or friends in the disaster, gathered at a park incentral Kobe to offer silent prayers at 5:46 am, the time themagnitude 7.3 quake hit the capital of Hyogo Prefecture andits vicinity.

Thousands of bamboo lanterns arranged in theshape of "1.17" were lighted in the park.

In a memorial address on behalf of the bereaved families,Masae Ogawa, 47, who lost her mother in the quake, delivered aeulogy, reflecting on how her neighbors were involved inefforts to rescue her mother.

"On that day, seeds of appreciation were sown in myheart. The seeds have produced flowers. I would be happy ifthey turn to fruits and I can sow their seeds in (the heartsof) others," she said, choking up with tears.

Kobe Mayor Tatsuo Yada offered condolences to the victimsat the ceremony and pledged to make more buildings quakeproofin the city to lessen the negative effects of futureearthquakes.

But as the affected people are aging, the localgovernments of quake-hit areas are confronting a host ofdifficult issues such as how to assist people who werephysically handicapped or lost their own homes in thedisaster.

Kobe, the hardest-hit city, is also being urged to comeup with a good way to hand down the memories of the disasterto the next generation, as the ratio of its citizens who havenot experienced the earthquake has reached around 40 percentas of this month.

The Hyogo prefectural government and the Kobe citygovernment last year conducted the first survey of those whobecame disabled due to the disaster, and certified 328 aspersons with quake-caused disabilities under consideration forassistance measures.

With the 20-year occupancy period for subsidizedtemporary housing provided to survivors through localgovernments set to expire in a few years, measures to enablesuch people to move smoothly are also required.

According to Hyogo Prefecture, about 48 per cent ofresidents in temporary housing were 65 years old or older asof November.

Various other memorial events were also held throughoutthe city and other parts of Hyogo Prefecture, including thecity of Ashiya and Awaji Island. (Kyodo)

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