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Case Study: Earthquake Kobe
Where: Kobe Japan
When: 17th January 1995
Time: 5:46am Local Time
Three crustal plates meet near to the coast of Japan. Close to Kobe, the denser oceanic
Philippines Plate is being subducted beneath the lighter continental Eurasian Plate at a rate
of about 10 centimetres per year. The Japanese island arc has been formed from the molten
magma released by the melting Philippines Plate. Earthquakes are very common here and happen
because of the friction resulting from the two plates colliding along this destructive margin.
Kobe Earthquake was due to the shallow depth of the focus which was only about 16 kms.
below the surface and the fact that the epicentre occurred close to a very heavily populated
area. Seismic shockwaves travelled from Awaji Island (the epicentre) along the Nojima Fault
to the cities of Kobe and Osaka.
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235,000 People made homeless
100,000 buildings destroyed
$150 billion worth of damage
90% died in their traditional homes. The roofs were too heavy (1 tonne of ornate
traditional Japanese roof tiles) in order to withstand typhoons. The sides wobbled and
warped during the earthquake and the roofs fell down on top of the inhabitants. This
became known as the `Pancake Effect'.
Gas and Electrical mains broke, causing fires. Many people burnt alive whilst trapped
in the wreckage of their homes.…read more
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Though more stringent safety standards were introduced over time, the Hanshin
Expressway was not updated and only had wire mesh going halfway up the concrete
The quake toppled the expressway and it collapsed.
After the Quake
Water, electricity, gas, telephone services were fully working by July 1995
The railways were back in service by August 1995
A year after the earthquake, 80% of the port was working but the Hanshin
Expressway was still closed.…read more