Where is Kobe?
Kobe is located 32 kilometres west of Osaka on the Japanese island of Honshu. It has a population of 1.5 million and is one of the largest and busiest ports in Japan. Kobe is an important centre for commerce, tourism, shipbuilding, and for manufacturing steel, rubber, and textiles.
When did the earthquake happen?
5.46 a.m., on Tuesday January 17th, 1995.
An earthquake measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale hit the city. The epicentre was on Awaji island in Osaka Bay. The earthquake's focus was very shallow, at a depth of 15 - 30 kilometres. This resulted in extremely violent shaking of the ground.
Some 75,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed during the earthquake and its aftershocks. Road and rail links were damaged, making it difficult for fire engines and ambulances to reach the worst affected parts of the city. Gas and water supplies were cut off, as were telecommunications links.
Nearly 6,000 people were killed, with another 26,000 injured. 310,000 people were made homeless. The cost of repairing the damage was put at £60 billion.
Most deaths happened in the old residential areas where buildings had been constructed before the introduction of designs to help withstand earthquakes. Many of the oldest buildings were wooden and caught fire very quickly.
Although many newer buildings in Kobe were built to withstand earthquakes some of them still collapsed. The Hanshin Expressway, an elevated road, collapsed although it was built to withstand earthquakes measuring up to 8.3 on the Richter scale. Other modern buildings with steel frames were designed to sway in the event of an earthquake, yet some of these also collapsed. Others were so badly damaged they had to be demolished.
The earthquake hit Japanese industry. The Toyota motor company had two factories in Kobe, both of which made vehicle parts which no other factory could make. Once these factories were put out of production Toyota's whole assembly system ground to a halt.
The Japanese Government was heavily criticised for its response to the earthquake. Relief efforts were condemned for being slow, uncoordinated and badly equipped.