Japan on Tuesday commemorated the 22nd anniversary of the devastating earthquake that left 6,434 people dead in the city of Kobe and several locations in the center of the country in 1995.
Relatives of the deceased and survivors of the earthquake, considered one of the most tragic in the country's history, gather every year on the date of the quake anniversary in a park in Kobe and observe a minute of silence at 5.46am local time (8.46pm Monday GMT, the exact time at which the tremor occurred.
Attendees laid out some 7,000 bamboo candles which were formed to read "1-17," representing the date of the earthquake, and the word in Kanji characters "hikari," which means "light" in Japanese.
The memorial service for the Great Hanshin Earthquake - named after the region - took place at a monument at the Higashi Yuenchi park, according to public broadcaster NHK.
After a minute of silence, a memorial ceremony took place in which victims like Shinji Otorii, who lost his wife in the disaster, remembered the victims and the remaining challenges after the tragedy.
Those challenges include providing greater support to already-aging survivors, with survivors still living in temporary housing and some being asked to leave after two decades. They also include finding ways to pass on the lessons learned after the tragedy to future generations so that their memory lasts, NHK reported.
The 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck the region at a time when most residents were sleeping, leading to many people being trapped in their homes and other buildings.
The epicenter of the earthquake was located in the northern part of Awaji Island, about 20 kilometers from Kobe, which was the most populated city in the area with around 1.5 million residents at the time.
In addition to more than 6,400 deaths, the earthquake left 40,000 injured and damaged 640,000 buildings, including 100,000 homes that were completely destroyed.
Some 310,000 people were forced to seek emergency shelter.
The Kobe quake was Japan's most tragic earthquake in the twentieth century after the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, which left more than 100,000 dead in the country's capital, Tokyo, and in surrounding areas.