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The Great Hanshin earthquake, or Kobe earthquake, occurred on Tuesday, January 17, 1995, at 05:46 JST (January 16 at 20:46 UTC) in the southern part of Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan. It measured 6.8 on the moment magnitude scale (USGS), and Mj7.3 (adjusted from 7.2) on JMA magnitude scale. The tremors lasted for approximately 20 seconds. The focus of the earthquake was located 16 km beneath its epicenter, on the northern end of Awaji Island, 20 km away from the city of Kobe.
Approximately 6,434 people lost their lives (final estimate as of December 22, 2005); about 4,600 of them were from Kobe. Among major cities, Kobe, with its population of 1.5 million, was the closest to the epicenter and hit by the strongest tremors. This was Japan's worst earthquake in the 20th century after the Great Kantō earthquake in 1923, which claimed 140,000 lives. It caused approximately ten trillion yen ($100 billion) in damage, 2.5% of Japan's GDP at the time.
It was the first time that earthquake tremors in Japan were officially measured at seismic intensity (shindo in Japanese) of the highest Level 7 on the scale of Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA).
Note: After this earthquake, seismic intensity observation in Japan was fully mechanized (from April 1996) and JMA seismic intensity Levels 5 and 6 were each divided into 2 levels (from October 1996).
An on-the spot investigation by JMA concluded that tremors by this earthquake were at seismic intensity of
Level 7 in particular areas in northern Awaji Island (now Awaji City) and in the cities of Kobe, Ashiya, Nishinomiya and Takarazuka.
Tremors were valued at seismic intensity of Levels 6 to 4 at observation points in Kansai, Chūgoku, Shikoku and Chūbu regions.
Level 6 in the cities of Sumoto (in Awaji Island) and Kobe (both in Hyōgo Prefecture).
Level 5 in the cities of Toyooka (in Hyōgo Prefecture), Hikone (in Shiga Prefecture) and Kyoto.
Level 4 in the prefectures of Hyōgo, Shiga, Kyoto, Fukui, Gifu, Mie, Osaka, Nara, Wakayama, Tottori, Okayama, Hiroshima, Tokushima, Kagawa and Kōchi.