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Kobe Turning to Rebuilding From 20 Seconds of Destruction

January 21, 1995

KOBE, Japan (AP) _ While the enormity of day-to-day survival remains overwhelming, Kobe is preparing for the years of rebuilding it will take to reverse the 20 seconds of destruction caused by Tuesday’s quake.

On Saturday, workmen were assembling the first of about 10,000 small prefab living units to be built in government-owned parks and athletic fields and lent free of charge to some of the 300,000 homeless people now staying in shelters. In the first stage of a long-term damage survey, inspectors were going through Kobe’s streets identifying the buildings most in danger of falling or otherwise endangering people.

The surveying took on a new urgency as weather forecasters predicted heavy rains that could further weaken walls and foundations and trigger landslides by washing away quake-loosened soil.

For the moment, many quake victims are leaving the Kobe area, often to stay with friends or relatives.

``It may take a year, since construction companies are going to be so busy,″ said Sakae Morimoto as she moved valuables out of her house, which leaned precariously over a narrow road. ``I’m hoping to find an apartment to live in until then, but I hear there aren’t any available.″

Across the road, the second floor of a house lay crumpled under the weight of a heavy tile roof that crushed and killed a family of four.

Even for wealthy Japan, the costs of rebuilding will be astronomical.

In Kobe, tens of thousands of buildings were destroyed. Hardly a street or sidewalk downtown is without V-shaped ridges or gaping cracks ripped open by the quake. Much of the port, Japan’s largest container port, is damaged.

As of Saturday, 840,000 households were still without water, 849,500 without gas and 40,000 without electricity, relief officials said. Restoration of gas was expected to take at least 1 1/2 months.

Still, Tokyo was virtually leveled twice this century _ in a 1923 earthquake and fire and in World War II _ and rebuilt fairly quickly each time.

For large companies, rebuilding will be painful but generally not insurmountable. For ordinary citizens, the process will be much tougher.

Goverment officials said they are preparing a housing and business loan program that will provide money at below market rates _ about 4 percent.

Bank branches not severely damaged remained open over the weekend. Customers who lost their passbooks could use other kinds of identification _ although that didn’t help those with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

``It’s so badly damaged that there’s no hope of salvaging anything,″ Akira Ohara said of his flattened house. ``All I have is the clothes I’m wearing, and I no longer have a job because my company was destroyed in the quake.″

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