A crane and several construction vehicles lay toppled on a fractured road in Kobe, Japan, after a 7.2-magnitude temblor shook the quake-prone country. The Great Hanshin Earthquake Disaster of 1995 was one of the worst in Japan’s history, killing 6,433 people and causing more than $100 billion in damages.

Photograph by Karen Kasmauski, National Geographic

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  • On January 17, 1995, a major earthquake struck near the city of Kobe, Japan, killing more than 6,000 and making more than 45,000 people homeless.
    Japan is one of the most geologically active regions on Earth, a place where four major tectonic plates—the Eurasian, Philippine, Pacific, and North American—meet and interact. The Kobe quake was a result of an east-west strike-slip fault where the Eurasian and Philippine plates interact.
    The quake cost more than $100 billion in damage, and the Kobe government spent years constructing new facilities to attract back the 50,000 people who left after the quake.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    city Noun

    large settlement with a high population density.

    construct Verb

    to build or erect.

    earthquake Noun

    the sudden shaking of Earth's crust caused by the release of energy along fault lines or from volcanic activity.

    geologic Adjective

    having to do with the physical formations of the Earth.

    government Noun

    system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.

    region Noun

    any area on Earth with one or more common characteristics. Regions are the basic units of geography.

    Encyclopedic Entry: region
    strike-slip fault Noun

    fracture in Earth's crust where tectonic movement is left (sinistral) or right (dextral), but rarely vertical.

    tectonic plate Noun

    massive slab of solid rock made up of Earth's lithosphere (crust and upper mantle). Also called lithospheric plate.