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25 years after Kobe quake, victim support plans deficient

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The Great Hanshin Earthquake, which struck the Kobe area early on Jan. 17, 1995, and eventually claimed 6,434 lives, prompted Japan to review its disaster preparedness, responses, and recovery and reconstruction efforts.

The earthquake has spawned a wide array of new systems and programs.

Cooperation among local governments in responding to major disasters has been promoted. Disaster medical teams comprising doctors and nurses have been set up in various parts of the nation.

The idea of establishing an emergency fund to provide flexible disaster relief to survivors has attracted broad public attention. A signature campaign that began in Hyogo Prefecture, where Kobe is located, led to the enactment of the law on helping natural disaster victims reconstruct their livelihoods in 1998.

A new program was created and jointly supported by the government, nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations and the business community to link legions of volunteers to people affected by disasters.

The nationwide volunteer movement to support disaster relief efforts that emerged after the Kobe quake provided strong impetus for the establishment of the nonprofit activities promotion law, or the NPO law.


The 1995 earthquake also underscored some tough challenges that have since been repeatedly highlighted in disasters.

More than 900 people died of related causes, such as a flu outbreak at an evacuation center. These “related deaths” account for 14 percent of the total death toll of the Great Hanshin Earthquake.

Problems have also beset public housing units provided as permanent residences for quake survivors.

Dozens of people, including those not directly affected by the disaster, have died alone in the units each year. The total number of such solitary deaths topped 1,100 over two decades.

Disaster-hit areas have been rebuilt and redeveloped with the support of the local administration under the slogan of “creative reconstruction.” But many small and midsized businesses are........

© The Asahi Shimbun