Great Hanshin earthquake
Great Hanshin earthquake (阪神・淡路大震災, Hanshin Awaji
Kobe earthquake, occurred on January 17, 1995 at
05:46:53 JST (January 16 at 20:46:53 UTC) in the southern part of
Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan, known as Hanshin. It measured 6.9 on the
moment magnitude scale and 7 on the JMA Shindo intensity scale. The
tremors lasted for approximately 20 seconds. The focus of the
earthquake was located 17 km beneath its epicenter, on the
northern end of Awaji Island, 20 km away from the city of Kobe.
Up to 6,434 people lost their lives; about 4,600 of them were from
Kobe. Among major cities, Kobe, with its population of
1.5 million, was the closest to the epicenter and hit by the
strongest tremors. This was Japan's worst earthquake in the 20th
century after the Great Kantō earthquake in 1923, which claimed more
than 105,000 lives.
2 Other aspects
2.2 Disaster planning
4 See also
6 External links
Damage at Minatogawa, Kobe
Most of the largest earthquakes in Japan are caused by subduction of
Philippine Sea Plate
Philippine Sea Plate or Pacific Plate, with mechanisms that
involve either energy released within the subducting plate or the
accumulation and sudden release of stress in the overlying plate.
Earthquakes of these types are especially frequent in the coastal
regions of northeastern Japan.
Great Hanshin earthquake
Great Hanshin earthquake belonged to a third type, called an
"inland shallow earthquake". Earthquakes of this type occur along
active faults. Even at lower magnitudes, they can be very destructive
because they often occur near populated areas and because their
hypocenters are located less than 20 km below the surface. The
Great Hanshin earthquake
Great Hanshin earthquake began north of the island of Awaji, which
lies just south of Kobe. It spread toward the southwest along the
Nojima Fault on Awaji and toward the northeast along the Suma and
Suwayama faults, which run through the center of Kobe. Observations
of deformations in these faults suggest that the area was subjected to
east-west compression, which is consistent with previously known
crustal movements. Like other earthquakes recorded in western Japan
between 1891 and 1948, the 1995 earthquake had a strike-slip mechanism
that accommodated east-west shortening of the
Eurasian Plate due to
its collision with the
Philippine Sea Plate
Philippine Sea Plate in central Honshu.
The Mj 7.3 earthquake struck at 05:46 JST on the morning of January
17, 1995. It lasted for 20 seconds. During this time the south side of
Nojima Fault moved 1.5 meters to the right and 1.2 meters
downwards. There were four foreshocks, beginning with the largest (Mj
3.7) at 18:28 on the previous day.
USGS ShakeMap for the event
It was the first time that an earthquake in Japan was officially
measured at a seismic intensity (shindo in Japanese) of the highest
Level 7 on the scale of
Japan Meteorological Agency
Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA). After the
earthquake, seismic intensity observation in Japan was fully
mechanized (from April 1996) and JMA seismic intensity Levels 5 and 6
were each divided into 2 levels (from October 1996).
An on-the spot investigation by JMA concluded that tremors by this
earthquake were at seismic intensity of Level 7 in particular areas in
Awaji Island (now Awaji City) and in the cities of Kobe,
Ashiya, Nishinomiya and Takarazuka.
Tremors were valued at seismic intensity of Levels 4 to 6 at
observation points in Kansai, Chūgoku,
Shikoku and Chūbu
Level 6 in the cities of Sumoto (in Awaji Island) and
Kobe (both in
Level 5 in the cities of Toyooka (in Hyōgo Prefecture), Hikone (in
Shiga Prefecture) and Kyoto.
Level 4 in the prefectures of Hyōgo, Shiga, Kyoto, Fukui, Gifu, Mie,
Osaka, Nara, Wakayama, Tottori, Okayama, Hiroshima, Tokushima, Kagawa
Damage was extremely widespread and severe. Structures irreparably
damaged by the quake included nearly 400,000 buildings,
numerous elevated road and rail bridges, and 120 of the 150 quays in
the port of Kobe. The quake triggered around 300 fires, which raged
over large portions of the city. Disruptions of water, electricity
and gas supplies were extremely common. In addition, residents were
afraid to return home because of aftershocks that lasted several days
(74 of which were strong enough to be felt).
The majority of deaths, over 4,000, occurred in cities and suburbs in
Hyōgo Prefecture. A total of 68 children under the age of 18 were
orphaned, while 332 additional children lost one parent.
A section of the
Nojima Fault (left) and preserved damage at the
Earthquake Memorial Park near the port of Kobe
One in five of the buildings in the worst-hit areas were completely
destroyed (or rendered uninhabitable). About 22% of the offices in
Kobe's central business district were rendered unusable, and over half
of the houses in that area were deemed unfit to live in. High rise
buildings that were built after the modern 1981 building code suffered
little; however, those that were not constructed to these standards
suffered serious structural damage. Most of the older traditional
houses had heavy tiled roofs which weighed around two tons, intended
to resist the frequent typhoons that plagued Kobe, but they were only
held up by a light wood support frame. When the wood supports gave
way, the roof crushed the unreinforced walls and floors in a pancake
collapse. Newer homes have reinforced walls and lighter roofs to avoid
this, but are more susceptible to typhoons.
The damage to highways and subways was the most graphic image of the
earthquake, and images of the collapsed elevated Hanshin Expressway
made front pages of newspapers worldwide. Most people in Japan
believed those structures to be relatively safe from earthquake damage
because of the steel-reinforced concrete design. Although the initial
belief was construction had been negligent, it was later shown that
most of the collapsed structures were constructed properly according
to the building codes in force in the 1960s. However, the
steel-reinforcement specifications in the 1960s regulations had
already been discovered to be inadequate and revised several times,
the latest revision being in 1981, which proved effective but only
applied to new structures.
Immediately before the collapse of the Kashiwai building
Ten spans of the
Hanshin Expressway Route 43 in three locations in
Kobe and Nishinomiya were knocked over, blocking a link that carried
forty percent of Osaka-
Kobe road traffic. Half of the elevated
expressway's piers were damaged in some way, and the entire route was
not reopened until September 30, 1996. Three bridges on the less
heavily used Route 2 were damaged, but the highway was reopened well
ahead of Route 43 and served as one of the main intercity road links
for a time. The
Meishin Expressway was only lightly damaged, but was
closed during the day until February 17, 1995 so that emergency
vehicles could easily access the hardest-hit areas to the west. It
wasn't until July 29 that all four lanes were open to traffic along
one section. Many surface highways were clogged for some time due
to the collapse of higher-capacity elevated highways.
Most railways in the region were also damaged. In the aftermath of the
earthquake, only 30% of the Osaka-
Kobe railway tracks were
Daikai Station on the
Kobe Rapid Railway line collapsed,
bringing down part of National Route 28 above it. Wooden supports
collapsed inside supposedly solid concrete pilings under the tracks of
Shinkansen high-speed rail line, causing the entire line to shut
down. However, the railways rebounded quickly after the quake,
reaching 80% operability in one month.
Artificial islands, such as the modern
Rokkō Island and especially
Port Island in Kobe, suffered severe subsidence due to liquefaction of
the soil; water breaking through the surface and flooding those
islands was initially believed to have seeped in from the sea, but in
fact rose from the liquefied remains of once-solid soils used to
construct the islands. However, the newly completed artificial island
Kansai International Airport
Kansai International Airport was not significantly
affected, due to being further away from the epicenter and because it
was built to the latest standards. The Akashi Kaikyō Bridge, under
construction near the earthquake's epicenter, was not damaged but was
reportedly lengthened by a full meter due to horizontal displacement
along the activated tectonic fault.
Outside Japan the earthquake is commonly known as the
In Japan, the disaster by this earthquake is officially called The
Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake Disaster (阪神・淡路大震災,
Hanshin-Awaji Daishinsai), which is often shortened to The Great
Hanshin Earthquake Disaster (阪神大震災, Hanshin Daishinsai).
Hanshin refers to the region between Osaka and Kobe. In the scientific
literature it is often called the 1995 Southern Hyōgo Prefecture
Earthquake (平成7年(1995年)兵庫県南部地震, Heisei 7 nen
(1995 nen) Hyōgo-ken Nanbu Jishin), the name chosen by the Japan
Meteorological Agency in the week after the main shock.
Damage in Sannomiya
The quake ravaged many of the facilities of what was then the world's
sixth-largest container port and the source of nearly 40% of Kobe's
The sheer size of the earthquake caused a major decline in Japanese
stock markets, with the
Nikkei 225 index plunging by 1,025 points on
the day following the quake. This financial damage was the immediate
cause for the collapse of
Barings Bank due to the actions of Nick
Leeson, who had speculated vast amounts of money on Japanese and
Singaporean derivatives. Discussions of Japan's "Lost Decade" tend
towards purely economic analysis, and neglect the impact of the
earthquake on the Japanese economy which at the time was already
suffering from recession.
Despite this devastation in a big production center, the local economy
recovered very quickly. Even though less than half the port
facilities had been rebuilt by that stage, within a year import
volumes through the port had recovered fully and export volumes were
nearly back to where they would have been without the disaster.
Less than 15 months after the earthquake, in March 1996, manufacturing
activity in greater
Kobe was at 98% of its projected pre-quake
The fact that volunteers from all over Japan converged on
Kobe to help
victims of the quake was an important event in the history of
volunteerism in Japan. The year 1995 is often regarded as a turning
point in the emergence of volunteerism as a major form of civic
In December 1995, the government declared January 17 a national
"Disaster Prevention and Volunteerism Day", and the week from January
15 to 21 a national "Disaster Prevention and Volunteerism Week", to be
commemorated with lectures, seminars, and other events designed to
encourage voluntary disaster preparedness and relief efforts.
The earthquake proved to be a major wake-up call for Japanese disaster
prevention authorities. Japan installed rubber blocks under bridges to
absorb the shock and rebuilt buildings further apart to prevent
collateral damage. The national government changed its disaster
response policies in the wake of the earthquake, and its response to
2004 Chūetsu earthquake
2004 Chūetsu earthquake was significantly faster and more
effective. The Ground Self-Defense Forces were given automatic
authority to respond to earthquakes over a certain magnitude, which
allowed them to deploy to the Niigata region within minutes. Control
over fire response was likewise handed over from local fire
departments to a central command base in Tokyo and Kyoto.
1.17 memorial in
Kobe in January 2005, ten years later
In response to the widespread damage to transportation infrastructure,
and the resulting effect on emergency response times in the disaster
area, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport began
designating special disaster prevention routes and reinforcing the
roads and surrounding buildings so as to keep them as intact as
possible in the event of another earthquake. Hyōgo's prefectural
government invested millions of yen in the following years to build
earthquake-proof shelters and supplies in public parks.
Kobe Luminarie is an event held for approximately two weeks every
December. A street leading from the Daimaru store in Motomachi to
Higashi Yuenchi Park (next to
Kobe city hall) is decorated with arches
of multicoloured lights that were donated by the Italian government.
Amongst the commemorative events held on the anniversary of the
earthquake, large "1.17" digits are illuminated in Higashi Yuenchi
Park in the early hours of January 17 each year.
Local memorial in Kobe. "We won't forget that time"
Approximately 1.2 million volunteers were involved in relief
efforts during the first three months following the earthquake.
Retailers such as
7-Eleven used their existing supply
networks to provide necessities in affected areas, while NTT and
Motorola provided free telephone service for victims. Even the
Yamaguchi-gumi yakuza syndicate was involved in distributing food and
supplies to needy victims.
Local hospitals struggled to keep up with demand for medical
treatment, largely due to collapsed or obstructed "lifelines" (roads)
that kept supplies and personnel from reaching the affected areas.
People were forced to wait in corridors due to the overcrowding and
lack of space. Some people had to be operated on in waiting rooms and
To help speed the recovery effort, the government closed most of the
Hanshin Expressway network to private vehicles from 6:00 am to
8:00 pm daily and limited traffic to buses, taxis and other
designated vehicles. To keep the light rail system running even
though it had quite severely damaged sections, shuttle buses were
commissioned to transfer patrons to stations around damaged
List of earthquakes in Japan
National Geographic Seconds From Disaster episodes
^ a b c ISC (2015), ISC-GEM Global Instrumental Earthquake Catalogue
(1900–2009), Version 2.0, International Seismological Centre
^ a b c d USGS (September 4, 2009), PAGER-CAT Earthquake Catalog,
Version 2008_06.1, United States Geological Survey
^ a b c Comfort, Louise (1995). Self Organization in Disaster
Response: The Great Hanshin Earthquake of January 17, 1995 (PDF).
^ The City of
Kobe (January 1, 2009). "STATISTICS" (PDF). The Great
Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake: Statistics and Restoration Progress.
Archived from the original (PDF) on June 26, 2011. Retrieved
Kobe City FIRE Bureau (January 17, 2006). "被害の状況".
Kobe City Fire Bureau. Archived from the
original on April 14, 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-25.
^ "Earthquakes in Japan" (PDF) (in Japanese). Cabinet Office,
Government of Japan. pp. 5–6. Retrieved 2009-05-06.
^ "(2) Shallow inland earthquakes", Seismic Activity in Japan.
^ Koketsu, Kazuki; Yoshida, Shingo; Higashihara, Hiromichi (1998). "A
fault model of the 1995
Kobe earthquake derived from the GPS data on
the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge and other datasets" (PDF). Earth, Planets and
Space. 50: 803. Bibcode:1998EP&S...50..803K.
^ "7-2(2)The 1995 Southern Hyogo Prefecture Earthquake", Seismic
Activity in Japan.
^ Somerville, Paul (February 7, 1995). "
Kobe Earthquake: An Urban
Disaster". Eos. 76 (6). Archived from the original on May 1, 1997.
^ a b Search result on JMA database (in Japanese) of seismic
^ Anshel J. Schiff (ed.). Hyogoken-Nanbu (Kobe) Earthquake of January
17, 1995: Lifeline Performance. Reston, VA: ASCE, TCLEE.
^ Seconds from disaster –
Kobe Earthquake, National Geographic video
^ Kyodo News, "Hunt for tsunami orphans hampered, unprecedented",
Japan Times, April 2, 2011, p. 4.
^ Kitamura, Yamamoto & Fujii 1998, p. 240
^ a b c d "Economics Focus: The Cost of calamity". The Economist. The
Economist Newspaper Limited. 398 (8725): 68. March 19–25,
^ "'Disaster Prevention and Volunteerism Day' and 'Disaster Prevention
and Volunteerism Week'" (in Japanese). Cabinet Office, Government of
Japan. December 15, 1995. Retrieved 2009-05-02.
^ Burritt Sabin (October 31, 2004). "The Great Hanshin Earthquake:
Lessons for Niigata". J@pan Inc Newsletter (No. 295). Japan Inc
Communications. Retrieved 2008-05-25.
^ "Restoration from the earthquake disaster – City planning based on
the lessons learned from the disaster". Great Hanshin Earthquake
Restoration. Kinki Regional Development Bureau, Ministry of Land,
Infrastructure and Transport]. Retrieved 2006-11-23.
^ Japan Echo Inc. (April 2, 1998). "Earthquake Readiness: From
Underground Stores to Satellite Monitoring". Trends in JAPAN. Ministry
of Foreign Affairs.
^ Fukushima, Glen S. (1995), "The Great Hanshin Earthquake", JPRI
Occasional Paper (No. 2), Japan Policy Research Institute
^ Kitamura, Yamamoto & Fujii 1998, p. 260
^ Kitamura, Yamamoto & Fujii 1998, p. 256
Kitamura, R.; Yamamoto, T.; Fujii, S. (1998). "Impacts of the
Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake on Traffic and Travel – Where Did All the
Traffic Go?". In Cairns, S.; Hass-Klau, C.; Goodwin, P. Traffic Impact
of Highway Capacity Reductions: Assessment of the Evidence. London:
Landor Publishing. pp. 239–261.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Great Hanshin earthquake.
Great Hanshin Earthquake and the destruction of the infrastructure –
Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism
Kunii et al., The Medical and Public Health Response to the Great
Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake in Japan: A Case Study in Disaster Planning
Sawada and Shimizutani, Are People Insured Against Natural Disasters?
Evidence from the Great Hanshin-Awaji (Kobe) Earthquake in 1995
Seismic Activity in Japan – Headquarters for Earthquake Research
Special Great Hanshin Earthquake Edition - St. Cloud State University
Kansai Area Earthquake information - Sony Computer Science Laboratory
Inc. (ja) (ソニーコンピュータサイエンス研究所)
← Earthquakes in 1995 →
Great Hanshin (~7, Jan 17) † ‡
Marathon (5.7, Apr 14)
Neftegorsk (7.0, May 27) †
Antofagasta (8.0, Jul 30)
Guerrero (7.4, Sep 14)
Dinar (6.2, Oct 1) †
Colima–Jalisco (8.0, Oct 9) †
Chiapas (7.1, Oct 20)
Wuding (6.2, Oct 24) †
Gulf of Aqaba (7.3, Nov 22)
† indicates earthquake resulting in at least 30 deaths
‡ indicates the deadliest earthquake of the year
Earthquakes in Japan
1771 Great Yaeyama
1911 Kikai Island
1923 Great Kantō
1927 Kita Tango
1930 North Izu
1963 Kuril Islands
1974 Izu Peninsula
1983 Sea of Japan
1994 offshore Sanriku
1998 Ryukyu Islands
2006 Kuril Islands
2007 Kuril Islands
2009 Izu Islands
2010 Bonin Islands
April 2011 Fukushima
April 2011 Miyagi
Nankai megathrust earthquakes