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My Experience of the Awful Earthquake

By Takunori Matsumura

It was before daybreak in winter. Suddenly, my room began to shake a little and silently. Somehow, I became conscious in my bed right before the tiny shaking. Keeping on lying down, I thought that this would go away soon, and it was not important. But, I guessed wrong. The shaking was getting fiercer, and the ground was beginning to rumble forcibly. And soon, a shaking I have never met with struck me. My bed, on which I remained, was moving from one side of my room to the other side again and again. The incident was for only less than twenty minutes, but felt like one night. This experience was the most special one among my many experiences. What is more, the earthquake made a big impact around Japan and the world, and changed clearly the way of the preparation for severe earthquakes in Japan. To contribute a piece of information about the earthquake as an important historic event to a lot of people, I am telling about my experience in the earthquake in this essay.

This very strong earthquake is called The Great Hanshin earthquake. Hanshin means the area from Kobe to Osaka where the earthquake did catastrophic damage. The Great Hanshin earthquake happened at 5:46 a.m. on Tuesday, January 17, 1995. The earthquake was a local magnitude of 7.2 on the Japan scale. The focus of the earthquake was less than 20 km below Awaji-shima, an island in the Seto, which is the Japan Inland Sea. This island is close to the city of Kobe. The horizontal displacement of about 1.5 meters on the Nojima dislocation, which runs along the northwest shore of Awaji, lead to the earthquake. The earthquake was particularly devastating because it had a shallow focus and Hanshin area has millions of people. The dead were over 6,000, the number of injured people reaching about 35,000 and Nearly 180,000 buildings were badly damaged or destroyed. The damage to transportation also was severe. A highway fell down through several kilometers and elevated railroads collapsed in many places.

After I was assured that the swing had stopped, I went down from my bed to the surface of my room which was covered with books, ornaments, television and so on which dropped in the shaking, and met with my family. They all were safe, so I was relieved in that time. After that, we went out of our home, and looked about the condominium where we lived. Fortunately, the condominium was broken little since it had been built newly 6 months before the earthquake, but in a cloud of dust, I saw many houses that were collapsed completely, utility poles that fell down, and roads made by asphalt that cracked open. Shortly afterward, my family fled to my elementary school. When we got to the school, numerous people had gone there already, and I met with a lot of my friends. Our family stayed in the school until the next day. Three days after the earthquake, our condominium could not get electricity, even though the electricity of houses around it recovered in one or two days (the school did not lose electricity in the earthquake). For two or three weeks, water did not come to taps of my house. For that reason, I had to go to a water plant near my home to get water with my father. With respect to gas, it took two month for it to come back. Therefore, it was difficult for my mother to cook dishes in kitchen, and we had to go to a public bath. Many of my friends who lost their houses had lived in the gym of the school for several months under the condition that they had no walls between their small living spaces. I graduated from my elementary school in that year’s spring. In usual years, the ceremony of graduation takes place in the gym, but in this year, the gym could not be used for any purpose except victim’s living, and we had the ceremony on the ground. It was a memorable ceremony for me because of the situation beyond expression that the remaining shock of the disaster and the hope for the future were mixed. The earthquake tore me from several of my friends because they lost their houses and moved to other areas.

The experience of the devastating earthquake was shocking to me in my childhood, but fortunately, I did not lose my parents, sisters, relatives and friends in the earthquake. However, in fact, there are many people who lost their families and well-known people. Their sorrows probably are as deep as others cannot imagine. Although the Japanese government responded the earthquake without full quickness and preparations, after the earthquake, the government got more careful about quakes than before by putting the devices measuring intensity of shaking in many places around Japan, buildings’ constructions inadequate to sustain a big earthquake were found and it was required to improve the problem, the trial to develop earthquake-proof construction became more advanced, and the study of prevision of earthquakes took place actively. Such efforts to reduce damage of the quakes are continuing now, but these are not enough. In addition, numerous people are short of the attention to the disaster. Japan is located in the place where big earthquakes like the Great Hanshin earthquake happen frequently and, it is an earthquake that is the most serious threat to Japan. Therefore, now, we have to think over what are necessary, for more deaths and people who have grief from it to appear as little as possible, and it is necessary for people living in Japan to make efforts to minimize the damage from earthquakes on many levels. That is a big lesson for us from that awful earthquake.



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