Vigil underway to mark 28th anniversary of Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake

Residents of Japan's western city of Itami, Hyogo Prefecture, are holding an overnight candlelight vigil for the victims of the 1995 Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake.

On Monday, the eve of the quake's 28th anniversary, about 400 people joined in the annual event at a city park, organized by a local volunteer group.

The participants lit 6,434 candles, the exact number of people who died in the disaster.

The candles have messages written on them. Some are prayers for the souls of the departed, while others pledge to improve disaster preparedness.

The participants observed a moment of silence at 5:46 p.m., just 12 hours before the quake hit 28 years ago.

A woman participant who brought her 7-year-old daughter said the girl first learned about the disaster in kindergarten last year. She said she wants to pass on her memory of the quake to her daughter as well.

A third-year elementary school student said she believes the victims must have wanted to live longer. She said she intends to live her life to the fullest for them.

The candles will burn until 5:46 a.m. on Tuesday.