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Last Updated: Monday, 17 January, 2005, 10:48 GMT
Kobe marks quake anniversary
By Jonathan Head
BBC News, Tokyo

A woman sits to offer a prayer, Sunday Jan. 16. 2005.
The tsunami has brought back bad memories for Kobe's survivors
The people of Kobe in Japan have been commemorating the massive earthquake which struck the city 10 years ago, killing more than 6,000 people.

There were tears in the eyes of the survivors of Japan's worst natural disaster in half a century.

The ceremonies were attended by Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.

A special UN conference in Kobe this week will look at how Japan's experience could be used to help reduce the effect of such disasters in future.

At 0546, the precise moment the tremor struck the city 10 years ago, crowds of people lit 6,433 candles, one for each of the people who died.

Some said the horrific scenes following last month's tsunami in the Indian Ocean had brought back painful memories of their own loss and trauma.
 A group of invitees watch a two-story model house being shook  by a three-dimensional full-scale earthquake testing facility at Hyogo Quake-Resistance Research Center,15/01/2005
The world's biggest quake simulator was unveiled near Kobe on Saturday

Three hundred thousand people were made homeless by the quake.

The collapse of many roads and modern buildings, and the chaotic early response by the authorities exploded the myth that Japan was well-prepared for such events.

Kobe has since been almost completely re-built. But there are neighbourhoods which have never recovered their pre-quake populations.

Today, the government believes it would cope better than it did 10 years ago.

On Monday morning, in the centre of Tokyo, teams of soldiers, firefighters and railway workers performed some of the drills they rehearse every year now to remind people to be vigilant.

The capital sits on three major seismic fault-lines. A large-scale earthquake is thought to be several years overdue and despite all their efforts to prepare the public and reinforce buildings, officials still predict that the earthquake, when it comes, could kill more than 10,000 of Tokyo's inhabitants and cost hundreds of billions of dollars.

In pictures: Kobe 10 years on
17 Jan 05 |  In Pictures
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25 Oct 04 |  Asia-Pacific
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24 Oct 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Japan counts cost after typhoon
22 Oct 04 |  Asia-Pacific



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