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Kobe Newspaper Survives Quake, Keeps Publishing

February 13, 1995

KOBE, Japan (AP) _ After the building stopped swaying, editor Mitsuo Yoshiyama crawled out from under his desk at the Kobe Shimbun. Tables and chairs were tossed about the room and the walls had crumbled.

Phone lines were dead, and the computers were useless. The newspaper faced missing an edition for the first time since its founding nearly 100 years ago.

But 14 hours after the early-morning quake devastated Kobe, the paper was able to publish a four-page edition with the headline ``Huge Earthquake″ and a photograph of a bus hanging over a broken overpass.

``We had employees with cuts and bandages on their faces,″ said an editor, Yasuo Ishiyama. ``But still, their attitude was: Let’s go to work.″

In the hours after the earthquake, when fires were blazing through neighborhoods and survivors were digging family members and neighbors out of the rubble, Kobe Shimbun employees made their way to the office.

The paper had not failed to publish since Feb. 12, 1898, even when the headquarters burned down during World War II. Ishiyama said writers, editors and other employees were determined not to let the community down during its greatest crisis since the war.

No Kobe Shimbun employees died in the quake, which killed more than 5,250 people in Kobe and surrounding areas. But 10 employees lost family members, 11 were injured and the homes of 156 were damaged.

``The city desk chief lost his mother, but he was here leading from the first day,″ Ishiyama said.

Editorial writer Yasuhiro Miki came to work two days after the quake, even though his father was buried under the rubble of his house. He sat down to work on an editorial about his frustration with the slow rescue efforts and his experience as a survivor.

``In this case, I was not just an individual, but one of thousands of victims,″ Miki said in an interview. ``But I tried to make it sound as objective as possible.″

Later that day he got the call: His father had been found dead. But there was work to do. He did not go to see the body until he finished the editorial.

The quake edition came out with the help of a newspaper in Kyoto, normally 1 1/2 hours away, which had signed an agreement with the Kobe Shimbun for mutual help in case of disaster.

Twenty Kobe employees maneuvered six hours through rubble-filled streets to get to Kyoto, put together the truncated version of the paper and had 270,000 copies printed at a plant in an undamaged area of Kobe.

The evening edition came out at 8 p.m.

The quake was devastating for Miki, the editorial writer. But he said he took heart from his colleagues’ determination not to miss a single edition.

``It was great,″ he said. ``No matter what it took, they were going to keep the paper going.″

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