Japan marks 28th anniversary of Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake

Japan is marking the 28th anniversary on Tuesday of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, which left 6,434 people dead.

The powerful quake jolted the western prefecture of Hyogo and nearby areas on January 17, 1995, causing scores of buildings to collapse and fires to break out across affected areas.

A memorial service at Kobe East Park features roughly 10,000 lanterns, which are arranged to form the numbers "1.17" and the characters "Musubu," or "bond" in Japanese.

Officials hope that these events will help bring generations together so that the lessons learned from the disaster will be passed on to young people.

Participants were scheduled to offer a silent prayer at 5:46 a.m., the exact moment the earthquake occurred.

The annual event had been downsized since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. But this year, organizers decided to return to the pre-pandemic scale, featuring double the number of lanterns used last year.

Hyogo, however, faces the daunting challenge of keeping alive memories of the disaster.

A survey shows that the number of memorial services held by citizens' groups in the prefecture dropped by about 30 percent compared to the pre-pandemic years.

Moreover, fewer schools and kindergartens hold silent-prayer sessions or evacuation drills around this time of year.