Why Did So Many People Die in the Kobe Earthquake?

Why Did So Many People Die in the Kobe Earthquake?

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Kobe is Japan's second most populated and industrialised area, after Tokyo. It is located on three plates; the Pacific, the Philippine and the Eurasian. This puts the whole of Japan in danger of having an earthquake.

The earthquake was occurring at 5.46 AM on January 17th 1995. The earthquake was recorded 7.2 on the Richter scale, making it a very fatal earthquake. The epicentre was in Kobe, the second largest city in Japan. The centre of Kobe city was affected the worst, because it was very economically developed.

By the end of the earthquake, including as a result of aftershocks and living outside due to the loss of homes, 5390 people dies. The majority of deaths were caused by fire storms. Some people were trapped under rubble for hours until they died of suffocation, but volunteers made an effort to decrease that, by searching with their bare hands for victims. Over 600 aftershocks followed, which made even more people die. As people's homes were destroyed, many people had to suffer and live in cold, difficult conditions. The fact that it was in January exacerbated the situation because it was freezing and disease spread, for example influenza.

Japan lies on three plate boundaries; the Eurasian plate, the Pacific plate and the Philippine plate. This creates a danger for them.

People were not aware the earthquake was going to happen. To predict an earthquake is very expensive. People were not prepared for the earthquake, however it is more worth it to pay for new buildings destroyed in earthquakes than to save for years just to find out when the next one will be.

In Kobe, there are some older and some newer areas to live in. Some houses were built before 1960 and could be made of concrete tiles. Houses like those were not earthquake proof so people who lived in them were in greater danger of their house, and lives suffering from any earthquake. The newer houses however, had a greater chance of not being completely destroyed because they would have ben more recently built, and made with stronger material. Since the year 1981, houses in Japan have been made earthquake proof. Older people were in more danger of death from this point of view because in an older suburb of Kobe, many elderly people lived there and owned older houses. They would have been in their homes at the time of the earthquake, and may have become trapped if their house collapsed.

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Japan is a very rich country and technologically advanced. Japan is often the first country to manufacture the most modern products, therefore the earthquake caused a lot of destruction. A huge amount of money was lost from the earthquake. It was at a great expense to cover the cost of the damage, especially in the port.

The emergency services tried to reach people who might be in trouble as quickly as possible. Fire engines, ambulances and police were sent to quickly help. However, this was difficult because some access was blocked due to fire storms, flooding, damaged roads and aftershocks. Emergency services would be likely to come across these and could be stopped or slowed down by these disadvantages. This prevented the emergency services from responding very well, so more deaths happended where they may not have, if it wasn't for the problem of access.

In Japan, people are educated very well because it is an MEDC (more economically developed country), so they are at an advantage. Japan's people are very knowledgeable, which is why it leads to the people inventing new technology. At the time of the earthquake, schools would not be accessible afterwards because they would have been destroyed.

The earthquake happened at 5.46 AM on 17th January 1995. If it had been later in the day, more people would have been out of their homes and therefore there would have been more deaths.

So many people died in the Kobe earthquake because no one knew it was going to happen and people were unprepared for it. Many homes in Japan were not earthquake-proof, leading to many deaths. The fact it was in the middle of January caused a big effect on the number of deaths. People died from freezing conditions and the outbreak of influenza and other diseases.

The quantity of deaths may have been reduced if the earthquake was not in January. The fact the Kobe earthquake was in the middle of January made it difficult for people. Homes were lost so people had nowhere to sleep at night and it would have been freezing. This is what caused a number of deaths. However if the earthquake had been in the summer it would have saved lives.

Kobe have learnt to build strong, earthquake- proof houses, so that they are prepared for earthquakes in the future. They work out how to spend money when buildings are lost in an earthquake. They know now what to expect and what to do in the next earthquake, more than they did before.

If the disaster happened in a different country, it would not be received in the same way as Kobe. If it happened in an LEDC (less economically developed country) the services would not be available to come quickly in this emergency to help in a less developed and poorer country because people will have less communication and technology. These countries are at a disadvantage

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