Kobe (Japan),19 Dec 201: January 17, 1995- one of the notoriously unforgettable Black Days in the history of Japan when a 7.3 Richter scale earthquake shook Kobe city like the reed shaken by wind.
The disaster, which occurred in the wee hours and lasted only for ten seconds, claimed the lives of six thousand people, left 16 thousands severely injured, displaced tens of thousand and left a deep hole in the heart of those who survived the calamity.
Kimoura Toshifumi, one of such distraught survivors, is still haunted by the memory of that devastating incident.
Toshifumi explained, “Remembering that day still sends shock waves inside when the fury of nature collapsed all the infrastructures of the entire city in ten seconds.”
He now, as a volunteer at the earthquake-museum set up in the Kobe, provides a first-hand account of the incident, as a witness.
The visitors, apart from Toshifumi’s first-hand account, can also get the bigger picture of the story from a 12-minute video, featuring the earthquake and its aftermath.
“It takes a strong heart to see the video for it contains footages, demonstrating the damages and the plight of survivors,” he added.
Toshifumi said, “I, as a witness and victim of that natural disaster, would like tell the future generation to be aware of such emergency situations and respond them well prepared whenever they strike.”
The earthquake which is believed to have damaged properties worth estimated 100 trillion Japanese Yen has taught the Japanese, especially, the Kobe people, a great deal of lesson.
The most valuable of all is- Disaster Management in the island country like Japan where tremors and tsunamis keep taking its toll now and then.
When it comes to Kobe City earthquake, the city, as the witness have it, also caught a fire. The research showed that the gas leaked through the pipe and burnt down the properties to ashes.
That meticulous research later led Kobe city to be re-built as an earthquake-resilient city where the basic infrastructures the gas pipe, the water pipe, water well among others are built in earthquake-resilient.
“Post the Kobe city earthquake, the authorities here recognized the need to re-build the city as an earthquake-resilient one to reduce the loss of human lives and properties,” explained Masahito Murata, the Director at the Natural Disaster Mitigation and Human Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre, Kobe.
The centre, set up in 2003, has natural disasters mitigation and management expert. Not only do they conduct the research on the reason of the natural disasters hitting Japan but also across the globe and bring forth the ideas to reduce the damages.
Murata-led organization so far has studied the cases as the powerful typhoon in Philippines, earthquakes in Bali, Indonesia, Gujarat in India and Baluchistan in Pakistan and he himself has been involved in the post-disaster management.
Bearing the Kobe earthquake’s knock-on effects in his mind, the Director has been ardently promoting the idea of building earthquake resilient infrastructures in those disaster-hit areas in view reducing the damages of the disasters in case of recurrence.
There are around 200 such organizations and community volunteer groups in active operation in Kobe, according to the Director Murata, which raises awareness about the natural disaster management and support in the making of earthquake resilient infrastructures.
The policy in Kobe’s also has anyone building a house or any building has to leave some 7 per cent of his/her land where the government could build earthquake resilient building so that the people can resort there as the natural disasters hit.
“Earlier people were reluctant to provide the government their land,” shared Yoichi Honja, the Managing Director of the Kobe Institute of Urban Research, an organization under the Municipal Government.
‘As the government went on to consulate with the locals and oriented then about the long-term benefits of the cause, they happily offered the land later,” shared Honja.
Furthermore, the schools here have also incorporated the chapter on preparedness for natural disaster and its management in its syllabus.
Such efforts, coming both, from the government and local level, have made Kobe city a model one for the earthquake- residence city.
Nepal can also take some vital lessons from the Kobe’s story as its capital, Kathmandu, is one of the most earthquake-prone cities.
By Yekraj Pathak