Tohoku community prays for victims of Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake

A community hit hard by the March 11, 2011 disaster in northeastern Japan held a memorial service on Tuesday for victims of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake.

January 17 marks the 28th anniversary of the powerful quake in western Japan that left 6,434 people dead.

Residents of Iwate Prefecture's Rikuzentakata City and other participants gathered around the "Light of Hope" to honor the victims of the 1995 quake. Kobe City sent the flame to Rikuzentakata to pray for its recovery after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

People started arriving at the "Light of Hope" at around 5 a.m. They offered flowers to mourn the victims and observed a moment of silence at 5:46 a.m., the time when the quake struck.

As nearly three decades have passed since the Hanshin-Awaji quake, many people are concerned that memories of the disaster will fade.

Sasaki Yoshihito heads the organization that manages the Light of Hope. His wife and son died in the 2011 disaster. He said he will continue to support the people of Kobe, who have endured similar pain.

He said future generations must be told about the tragedies and the lessons learned from them.