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Great Hanshin-Awaji (Kobe) Earthquake, January 17, 1995
browse graphic The Earthquake - At 5:46 A.M. local time on January 17, 1995, a major earthquake occurred near the City of Kobe, Japan. The 6.9 magnitude earthquake had 40 km of bilateral rupture from a hypocenter 10 km under the northern tip of the island of Awaji in the Sea of Japan. The greatest intensity of shaking was in a narrow corridor of two to four kilometers stretching 40 km along the coast of Osaka Bay. The ground moved as much as five meters in some places. The worst destruction ran along the previously undetected fault on the coast, east of Kobe. Kobe's major business, industrial and port facilities, and residences are located in this strip. Note: This earthquake is also called the Hyogo-Ken Nambu, Japan, Earthquake and Southern Hyogo Prefecture Earthquake.The Damage - The earthquake caused extensive damage to the coastal cities that border Osaka Bay and to the northern portion of Awaji Island. Inland cities located near the northern end of the fault rupture sustained significant damage. Osaka (Japan's second largest city), Kyoto, and Shiga, farther to the northeast, reported extensive damage from the quake. The earthquake caused 5,480 deaths, the highest death toll in Japan since the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 (142,000 deaths). About 94,900 people were injured; nearly 317,000 people moved to evacuation centers.Buildings - More than 192,700 houses and buildings were totally destroyed by the earthquake. Most of the damaged buildings were unsafe to occupy and had to be torn down later. The repair costs to buildings were estimated at more than $100 billion (U.S. Dollars). The design code in effect at the time of the construction was a major factor in determining the extent of damage to the commercial and residential buildings. Modern high-rise buildings typically fared better than older residential construction.Transportation - Kobe is located within the main transportation corridor between central and southern Honshu. The Hanshin Expressway, supported by large hammerhead reinforced concrete piers, failed over a twenty kilometer length. The supporting steel girders of the Wangan Expressway (along the harbor shore) were dislodged from their seats, although few collapsed. Rail facilities were particularly hard hit. All three main lines through the corridor sustained embankment failures, overpass collapses, distorted rails, and other severe damage. The elevated viaduct that carries the Bullet Train was severely damaged when supporting columns underwent shear failure. There was damage to the subway systems, including a rare instance of severe earthquake damage to a modern tunnel for reasons other than fault displacement near the portal. Rail and road transportation disruption affected a number of companies relying on rapid production systems. Due to effects on transportation, automobile and motorcycle manufacturers temporarily shut down factories located far from the earthquake site.Port Damage - The port of Kobe, one of the largest container facilities in the world, sustained major damage. Shipping had to be diverted to other ports. Cessation of port functions impeded the shipment of raw materials and parts between businesses in Japan and their subsidiaries or partners overseas. This impacted the electronics, apparel, and auto manufacturing industries. There was severe and widespread liquefaction as a result of the earthquake. Lateral ground deformation caused the piers of the highway bridge and electric rail bridge between Port Island and Kobe to lean between two and three degrees toward the waterfront. Of 186 heavy shipping berths, 179 were inoperable after the earthquake.Utilities - Electric power and telecommunications services were not disrupted, but most of Kobe lost essential services such as water, water treatment, and gas utilities. Electrical power performed well with very little reduction in service during the earthquake, and was completely restored within one week. Underground water pipelines sustained severe damage in the earthquake. Numerous breaks resulted in a general lack of service in Kobe, Ashiya, and Nishinomiya. Water was restored within two weeks and gas was restored within a month.Fires - Almost 150 fires started, most within minutes of the earthquake, and primarily in densely built-up low rise areas of the city. The fires destroyed one million square meters of residential area in Kobe.