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KOBE!. The Quake…. by Abi Battersby, 9W. C o n t e n t s:. 1.Letter to the government of Japan. 2.’What kind of place is Kobe?’ 3.Introduction 4.Why do earthquakes occur? 5.Why do earthquakes occur? 6.How do we measure earthquakes?

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The Quake….

by Abi Battersby, 9W



1.Letter to the government of Japan.

2.’What kind of place is Kobe?’


4.Why do earthquakes occur?

5.Why do earthquakes occur?

6.How do we measure earthquakes?

7. “ “

8.What were the possible effects of the Kobe earthquake?

9.What were the actual effects of the Kobe earthquake?

10.” “

11.How did people respond?

12.” ”

13.Why were some places more affected than others?

14.” “

15How could the impacts be reduced?

16.” ”

17.” “

18 Conclusion



To the Government of Japan,

Here is my report on the Kobe earthquake(Tuesday 17th January 1995). It outlines the reasons for the Earthquake. The overall scale of the damage caused, and how your country could be more prepared for Earthquakes in the future to prevent such a tragedy reoccurring.I hope you find it useful!

Yours Sincerely,

Abi Battersby.


(Geographical reporter)


What kind of place is Kobe??

Kobe is the 6th most important city in Japan. It is a small, historical and cultural city, that is described by many as beautiful. It varies tremendously, as some areas are very poor (such as Nagata Ward) and there are some very wealthy areas like Sannomiya which are more metropolitan but have less 50-70 storey skyscrapers! -Like the ones seen in Japans capital Tokyo.

Kobe is also a city of great industrial importance. It is Japans second most important industrial and business centre, and produces over 20% of Japans factory output. There are about 9,000 manufacturing industries with 120,000 workers!

Kobe is also one of Japans major ports. It’s large modern port is the 6th busiest container port in the world and accounts for 12% of Japans exports, Kobe is also an important route centre. It has a motorway (the Hanshin Expressway) and intercity ('bullet train') railway lines passing through it.

…So how were all of these things affected when the quake hit Kobe?


Destruction caused in Kobe Quake!!

At 5:46 a.m. on Tuesday 17th January, one of the most destructive earthquakes ever to hit Japan shook the city of Kobe.The effects were catastrophic; buildings collapsed and much of the city burst into flames, leaving thousands dead and many seriously injured. Others had to survive in crowded schools and public buildings, or on the streets -in the raw winter- with few supplies to keep them going.

This report looks into the damage of the Kobe earthquake and how it affected so many peoples lives, and changed the way the world deals with earthquakes...



…The earths crust is made up of several large sections of rock called tectonic plates. These sections float around slowly, moving at an average rate of a few inches a year. The line where two plates meet is called a fault line or plate boundary.

There are 4 main types of plate boundary:

Destructive plate boundary: Where an oceanic plate and a continental plate are moving towards each other. The oceanic plate is forced under (or subducts) the Continental plate. Destructive plate boundaries can cause both Earthquakes and volcanoes. Kobe sits near the Destructive plate boundary, of the Philippine Sea Plate and the Eurasian Plate. The Philippine Sea plate moves below the Eurasian plate at a rate of about 10cm a year. The movements of this plate boundary is what caused the Kobe Earthquake.

Constructive plate boundary: Where two plates are moving away from each other. This can cause magma from blow the earth’s surface to move upwards and then cool. Constructive plate boundaries can cause underwater mountain ranges.


Conservative plate boundary: When two plates slide past each other. Earthquakes occur at conservative plate boundaries, but volcanoes cannot, the most severe earthquakes happen at conservative and destructive plate boundaries.. A famous example of a conservative plate boundary is the San Adreas fault in California.

Collision plate boundary: Where two continental plates are moving towards each other.

Sometimes, as the plates move, they collide slightly and grind together, causing shock waves called seismic waves to spread outwards from that point. This movement is called an earthquake. Because of how they are formed, earthquakes can only happen along a plate boundary. (Volcanoes and Tsunamis can also occur because of movements along plate boundaries.) The place along a plate boundary, where an earthquake begins is called the Epicentre. The deeper the epicentre is, the further the shock waves travel, and the closer to the Epicentre the place is, the more destruction is caused.


How do we measure Earthquakes??

There are two main ways of measuring the shock waves caused by an earthquake...

The most commonly used method is the Richter scale.

This uses results from a Seismograph, a machine that produces a continual line on a graph. A thin needle, constantly records all natural tremors in the earth, however it also records every movement during an earthquake. When an earthquake is happening, the line drawn by the needle quickly moves up down vertically (see picture).

…The Seismograph is a very useful and important scientific instrument, because not only can it measure the strength of shock waves, and aftershocks. It can also pick up signs of when an Earthquake may be approaching.

The Richter scale works by measuring the intensity of earthquakes using a scale of 0-9. It is a logarithmic scale, meaning that each level is ten times greater that the one below it. Levels 0-3 can usually only be detected on a seismograph. At level 9 the ground shakes violently, and trees, buildings, bridges are completely destroyed. The Kobe Quake measured 7.2 on the Richter scale.


Richter Earthquake Magnitudes Effects:

Less than 3.5 Generally not felt, but recorded.

3.5 -5.4 Often felt, but rarely causes damage.

Under 6.0 At most slight damage to well-designed buildings. Can cause major damage to poorly constructed buildings over small regions.

6.1-6.9 Can be destructive in areas up to about 100 kilometres across where people live.

7.0-7.9 Major earthquake. Can cause serious damage over larger areas.

8 or greater Great earthquake. Can cause serious damage in areas several hundred kilometres across.

The other main way of measuring Earthquakes is the Mecalli scale. It works in a similar way to the Richter scale, but does not require a seismograph or an expert! It is a measure of things that happen, such as windows breaking, buildings damaged etc.

Eyewitnesses can measure it, which makes it easier in some ways; because it means people in the quake have an immediate idea of how strong the quake is. However it is not as scientific or accurate as the Richter scale.


What were the possible effects of the Kobe Earthquake??

The effects of the Kobe earthquake, although tragic, could have been even worse. The worst effects would have happened if Japan wasn’t used to earthquakes. The whole city could have been left completely flat and ALL buildings and roads destroyed, if nothing was earthquake proof.

Also, if Japan was not used to earthquakes, the government would have had no disaster plan.This would have meant it would have taken even longer to get aid to people after the quake, than it did on January 17th.

This is exactly what happened on the December 26th quake in Bam, Iran. "Our government only gives us slogans," said one frustrated Iranian to a local reporter. "But they don’t give us proper building codes”. The fact that the Iranian government had no contingency plan cost Iran 30,000 casualties to Iranian people.

However, the greatest threat (as Kobe is on the coast) was that the Kobe earthquake could have caused a tsunami (a tidal wave that pushes a surge of water onto the land). This has happened many times before, including in the great Kanto earthquake (also in Japan) where over 100,000 people died.


What were the actual effects of the Kobe Earthquake??

The Kobe earthquake lasted about 15seconds, but the effects of those few seconds lost and changed thousands of peoples lives…The damage caused is almost indescribable, because it occurred in so many different ways but the main points of destruction were:

Emotional damage & loss of life

Physical damage was a huge part of the effects of the Kobe earthquake but the most damage was caused by the loss of life in the quake. Over 300,00 people lost their homes and over 5,000 people died in 20 seconds of quake in Kobe. In those few seconds, thousands more people lost their parents, grandparents, children, and friends. Misa Hamaguchi (an eyewitness of the quake) shared his story of the huge emotional impact the quake had on his life “the saddest thing for me was I lost my favourite friend. Buildings can be rebuilt again. Life…no more. Dignity of life. I wanted to talk to play and laugh with my friend. The earthquake was really awful and hateful thing for us.”

Financial and economic impact on Japan.

Japan is a wealthy country, however damage worth an estimated £100 billion was caused to roads, houses, factories and infrastructure due to the quake and fires caused by the quake. –That’s about £10,000 for each person living in Kobe! There is no doubt that it will take Kobe a very long time (years) to properly recover from this financial, emotional, and physical damage that was almost all caused in just 20 seconds…


Physical damage

Despite all the other areas of damage the physical and structural destruction that occurred in Kobe was phenomenal…

Japan is used to earthquakes, therefore, some buildings particularly in the richer areas of Kobe were built to withstand them. But many older or traditional buildings especially ones in Kobe’s poorer areas, were not. These were demolished completely within seconds of the quake beginning, because they were just not built to withstand such force.

Also the effects of the quake were almost amplified, on Kobe’s reformed land. Because Kobe has grown over 60 squared km over the last few years, it has ‘built’ land on an artificial island which has the Kobe port built on it. Because this land is near the sea, and is not as compact as natural land, a process called liquefaction happened to the land, and floods occurred causing even more damage!

However, even most of the specially designed quake proof buildings did not escape damage, as burst gas mains caused raging fires to spread through the city, destroying most remaining buildings and circulating a thick asphyxiating smoke round the city.

Other physical damage included extensive damage to roads, and burst sewers. Also 285,000 telephone lines were down, 1,000,000 households were without electricity, 857,000 households were without gas and 1,200,000 households in 15 cities in Hoyogo were without a water supply. Which wasn’t fully recovered until the end of February.


How did people respond??

When the earthquake struck, most people were completely shocked. However it was the citizens of Kobe themselves, who took matters into their own hands in the hours after the quake. Reports say “People were rescuing others, and directing traffic. The locals were doing more than the officials!”

This one report suggests the emergency response in Kobe was not good, so is this true?

At the time it did seem that the emergency services were not very active, however, representatives from the services and the government have said that the emergency teams did not have the right equipment to deal with the situation.

When fires broke out around the city (due to burst gas mains) the rescue services were unprepared and they could not deal them like normal fires because all the water hydrants on the streets had been destroyed in the quake.


Apprentices in the fire services were expected to do the job of full time fire fighters, and the services were cut by more than 2/3 because so few workers had been able to get to work or had not survived the quake.

However the main simple reason the rescue response in Kobe was so slow is because the earthquake was bigger than everyone had expected, and the rescue services (and the government) were just not prepared for such an emergency.

However, some help did get through to the people of Kobe. Aid from around the world arrived in Kobe, missionaries and volunteers came to help the residents of Kobe in there time of need. However it took a long time for supplies to reach everyone, and many people were mal nutritional, and make shift emergency centres became crowded and unhygienic, as there was so little water.

However, reports say, there was courtesy and politeness in the queues for water and emergency phone lines despite them being in such short supply.


Why were some places more affected than others??

There is no doubt about the fact that some parts of Kobe were more affected in the quake than others. But why is this?…


There are many reasons why some places in Kobe were more affected than others, but one main one is that some places were simply nearer the Epicentre of the quake on (which was on Awajishima Island, 20 miles south of Kobe). This would have meant that the shockwaves would have been stronger near them.

Wealth in different areas of the city:

Kobe has some very wealthy parts and some poorer parts. In the wealthier parts of Kobe some buildings were built to withstand earthquakes, however in the poorer areas, the buildings were a lot older and more venerable to quakes.

The quake was not expected:

By Japanese standards, Kobe isn’t a high risk earthquake area (this is one of the reasons the government weren’t prepared for the quake). So even in the richer areas, there were not very many specially designed buildings, and even those buildings that had been specifically built would not have had a very high earthquake limit.


The quake was not expected:

By Japanese standards, Kobe isn’t a high risk earthquake area (this is one of the reasons the government weren’t prepared for the quake). So even in the richer areas, there were not very many specially designed buildings, and even those buildings that had been specifically built would not have had a very high earthquake limit.


Although there are many reasons some places in Kobe were more affected than others in the quake, eventually even if they were designed to be 100% earthquake proof and far away from the the epicentre, the fires that spread through the city after the quake destroyed almost every thing that had survived the initial quake. And so some parts were more affected in the quake, but other remaining buildings were burned down anyway In the raging fires that almost caused as much devastation and destruction as the actual quake.


How could the impacts be reduced??

Action plan:

One conclusion I can draw from this report is that the Kobe earthquake, caught the Japanese government and the people of Kobe completely off guard. No one was expecting it, and the government had no Action plan, for such an emergency.

Therefore, having a clear plan of action for everyone to follow in and after earthquakes would drastically reduce the impacts of future quakes.

Kobe was not a high risk earthquake area by Japanese standards. But the Japanese government need to understand that major earthquakes can happen anywhere in there country and they need to be prepared!

Earthquake drills:

Obviously, the Japanese have encountered earthquakes before, and so most people have an idea of what do in the event of one. But some of the casualties caused in the quake happened because people panicked, and could have been prevented if everyone knew what to do when an earthquake strikes. So people know what to exactly what to do in future quakes the people of Kobe could practice earthquake drills. Children in San Francisco (a common earthquake target) practise earthquake drills often at school, just like we have fire drills. Education is the key to communities surviving earthquakes because everyone needs to be able to know what to do.


And all around the world codes like this are practised so that every member of the community knows what to do wherever they are when an earthquake strikes….

  • If you are, Indoors:
  • Stay inside
  • DROP, COVER, AND HOLD ON! Move only a few steps to a nearby safe place. Take cover under and hold onto a piece of heavy furniture or stand against an inside wall. Stay indoors until the shaking stops and you're sure it's safe to exit. Stay away from windows and doors.
  • **Never take an elevator!
  • If you are in bed, hold on, stay there, protect your head with a pillow.
  • If you are Outdoors:
  • Find a clear spot away from buildings, trees, and power lines.
  • Drop to the ground until the shaking stops.
  • If you are In A Car:
  • Slow down and drive to a clear place (as described above).
  • Turn on emergency flashers on and slow to a stop. Do not stop on overpasses, underpasses, or bridges. Be careful of overhead hazards such as power lines or falling building debris.
  • Turn off the ignition and set the parking brake.
  • Stay inside the car until the shaking stops

Building designs:

Because only some of the buildings in Kobe were “earthquake proof”most fell collapsed during the quake, or were badly damaged because they were either not at all quake proof or because they didn’t have a very high limit and were only designed to withstand small tremors.

However, the suspension bridge in Kobe (which is the longest suspension bridge in the world!) had been designed to withstand earthquakes and although some support posts moved an extra 3m in some areas the bridge completely survived the quake. This proves that buildings and bridges can be built to withstand earthquakes.

If the Japanese government make sure that ALL buildings and bridges in Kobe are earthquake proof when they are rebuilt, this should ensure a significantly reduced amount of building destruction in future quakes.

An example of a quake proof building would:

  • Steel framed for strength.
  • have pounding between adjacent buildings to absorb shock.
  • have deep foundations with layers of wire mesh to protect from liquefaction.


The conclusion I can draw from this my research into the Kobe earthquake, is that it was a terrible tragedy. No one expected such damage to occur, and the effects were devastating. But the people of Kobe, and the Japanese government have many lessons they can learn from this disaster. Such as educating their people about earthquakes, designing ALL buildings to be earthquake proof, and having action plans for emergencies will help against preventing such disastrous effects when the next earthquake strikes Kobe…

Meanwhile Kobe rebuilds itself, knowing that the 7th January 1995 was not the first time an earthquake struck Kobe, and will certainly not be the last. 140000 people died in the last major quake in 1923, but eventually Kobe recovered. And this time, lets hope it can rebuild itself to be stronger city, that can teach cities on fault lines around the world that an earthquake is not the end of the world, Earthquakes are a force of nature, and they happen, But as long as you learn from your mistakes. Next time you will be prepared!

“am very sorry that my town was destroyed and my friends family died. He is now alone. I will help him. We should help each other. This disaster must be a good learning for you. Please prepare for earthquakes.”

Tom Mizuta (17 years old.)

b i b l i o g r a p h y for this project i have used
Bibliography…for this project I have used….
  • Natural disasters –Tim wood
  • Earthworks
  • Google