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Earthquake in Kobe – A Natural Disaster Waiting to Happen

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h/w Saturday, 05 October 2002 Earthquake in Kobe - A Natural Disaster Waiting to Happen Introduction It all happened on the morning of January the 17th 1995, the second most populated and industrialized city in one of the biggest economies of the world, was struck by a powerful earthquake causing thousands of injuries and hundreds of deaths. It was a disaster waiting to happen. Situated in the south-central region of Japan, Kobe was the second largest city in Japan people and industrial-wise, after Tokyo. It was the biggest earthquake to hit Japan, after the great Kanto earthquake of 1923, where around 140,000 people were killed, most after the impact. The strong shock occurred across the fault that runs through the city of Kobe, and the Awaji island. The earthquake lasted for around 20 seconds, with around 5,500 deaths resulting from it. The number of injuries reached about 35,000 in total, and nearly 180,000 buildings were said to have collapsed. The damage was recorded over a radius of 100 km from the epicentre. ...read more.


Railways were also a problem. Elevated railroad structures and railway stations were particularly hit hard. Three main lines the JR West, Hankyu, and Hanshin run through the Kobe-Osaka transportation corridor, on elevated structures and embankments. All the lines had elevated structure and embankment failures, overpass collapses, distorted rails, and other severe damage. A large number of cars were damaged, and some fell onto city streets. Several stations and several kilometers of reinforced concrete elevated structures were destroyed, and numerous spans collapsed. The Rokkomichi Station of the JR West line was virtually destroyed. The Shinkansen, better known, as the bullet train had most of its path in the Kobe area through two long tunnels under Rokko Mountain. At the east portal of the tunnel, the line is carried on an elevated viaduct for a length of 3 kilometers, this viaduct was severely damaged, with a number of the longer spans collapsing. These collapses were caused by failure of the supporting concrete columns. Damage to underground facilities, such as mines, tunnels, or subways, is generally quite rare in earthquakes. ...read more.


to be stored in reserve in the reservoirs equipped with automatic shutdown valves. Extensive ground settlement and other failures caused underground water pipelines to be severely damaged in the earthquake, with approximately 2,000 breaks resulting in lack of service in Kobe. The massive damage to the water transmission lines caused the tanks without automatic shutoff valves to drain in the first 1 to 8 hours after the earthquake. By the time the fires had started, much of the unreserved water had already drained from the system. With the transmission lines destroyed, the reserve water was also unavailable for fire fighting. Large fires followed the earthquake. The risks are particularly high in Japan because of high population densities; very narrow streets and alleys, which cannot act as fire breaks; numerous old wood-frame smaller commercial and residential buildings mixed in the commercial zones of towns; unanchored or unprotected gas storage tanks or heaters; and a mix of collapse-prone old buildings in all built-up areas. The Ashiya Fire Department reported 11 fires on the day. Nine of these were before 7:30 a.m. Distribution of the fires was along an east-west line about 1 kilometer wide centered on National Route 2. The total burned area for the 11 fires was about 4,400 square meters. ...read more.

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Response to the question

The candidate obviously has a clear understanding of the consequences of the earthquake, but (I have to admit the title does not specify) the lack of description of why the earthquake occurred seemed to be lacking (i.e. due to the ...

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Response to the question

The candidate obviously has a clear understanding of the consequences of the earthquake, but (I have to admit the title does not specify) the lack of description of why the earthquake occurred seemed to be lacking (i.e. due to the movement of tectonic plates). The question of 'inevitability' doesn't seem to be addressed. The student addresses the wider picture of the entire earthquake along with the consequences but does not address the issue of inevitability - whether or not the earthquake was really 'waiting to happen'. A conclusion would also have strengthened their argument for the piece of work. However, their introduction was strong and very good.

Level of analysis

The student shows excellent analytical skills throughout the piece of work for the consequences of the Kobe Earthquake, yet they seem to lack it in other areas to do with Kobe. This perhaps means that the piece of work cannot score the potential marks the student is capable of. Students must remember to address the entire question and balance their entire piece of work out such that nothing should immediately have more weighting (unless dictated by the question itself). Their judgements were evaluative, but for a piece of work on earthquakes, I would suggest looking further outside the question set and perhaps stating some of the positive preventions that Japan has now adopted after the earthquake as a consequence of Kobe (such as Earthquake Day, along with earthquake drills which are equivalent to the fire drills that we do regularly at school for example). Such further exploration of the question will set a high level student from a lower level one. The pictures included in the piece of work are not sourced - this is not advised as one could be accused of plagiarism. Students must be aware to cite / source all works used in their piece of work. Also the alignment of the pictures meant that it was hard to read the piece of work - this means the examiner has to spend more time searching for the answers as the picture hinders the clarity of the piece of work (yet the formatting might be due to the incompatibility of the software I'm using compared to the student's).

Quality of writing

The punctuation is questionable in this piece of work - I found the use of commas and colons are regular feature in this piece of work (i.e. perhaps it was used excessively in places). However, the grammar and spelling are fine. The writer could have included a glossary of terms such that they can further demonstrate their knowledge of the topic (such as defining epicentre). The student follows the typical layout expected and writes adequately to gain high marks for their piece of work.

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Reviewed by crystalclearmagic 20/03/2012

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