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One Year Later, Kobe Remembers The Quake That Killed 6,300

January 17, 1996

KOBE, Japan (AP) _ With rows of candles, silent prayers and white chrysanthemums, residents of Kobe remembered the thousands who perished in a devastating earthquake a year ago.

Throughout the city Wednesday, Buddhist monks administered rites at ceremonies marking the anniversary of the most destructive quake to hit Japan in 72 years.

Many people got up early to mark the exact moment the 7.2-magnitude quake hit: 5:46 a.m. Some prayed silently, others laid flowers. At one mourning site, 6,300 candles were lit _ one for every person killed.

At the official ceremony downtown, rows of mourners dressed in black gathered to hear statements from bereaved family members and top government officials, including Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto.

Hashimoto, who took office last week, pledged continuing support to rebuild Kobe but warned ``complete reconstruction will take a long time.″

Mourners placed single white chrysanthemums in front of a large cenotaph. Some clutched photos of loved ones who perished in the collapsed buildings and widespread fires.

Prefectural governor Toshitami Kaihara spoke of volunteers who had helped quake victims, and read aloud from a 5th-grader’s essay. ``We lost so much, but we learned so much,″ the girl wrote.

``It’s the greatest tribute to the dead for those who survived to live to the fullest every day,″ said Ayako Kurosaki, whose grandmother was killed.

Later, Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako visited a temporary market where some 100 vendors have set up shops under a large tent. Many waited for hours to see the prince and princess.

Despite the impressive rate of recovery in much of the city, where major rail lines, roads and buildings have been rebuilt, some 90,000 people are still living in temporary housing.

Social workers say thousands of quake survivors are suffering from depression and stress-related ailments.

Mindful of anger over tardy and ineffective rescue efforts, authorities staged disaster drills to prove they have made progress.

In the quake-hit Kobe suburb of Nishinomiya, soldiers dug at a mock-up of a wrecked home, carried stretchers and set up a triage tent. In the capital, the Tokyo fire department mobilized 18,000 firefighters for a drill.

The Kobe disaster left many Japanese city dwellers fearful, because it destroyed roads and buildings that had been considered earthquake-proof.

It was the most destructive to hit Japan since the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 killed more than 100,000 people around Tokyo.

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