Lessons From Kobe

by Kalle Matso, Asst. Editor; Civil Engineering, 345 E 47th St., NY, NY 10017,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1995, Vol. 65, Issue 4, Pg. 42-47

Document Type: Feature article

Errata: (See full record)

Abstract: On Jan. 17, Kobe, Japan became the first post-World War II, heavily populated, industrialized area to bear the full brunt of a high-magnitude earthquake. Engineers hope the resulting destruction will stir other cities from a dangerous complacency. People will study Kobe, Japan for years, looking for lessons in the ruins. They will examine crumpled concrete, buckled steel, collapsed spans of bridges, sunken port jetties and snapped gas pipes. They will study the variously damaged buildings--some standing, some out of plumb and some reduced to a pile of rubble. The most important lesson, however, has already hit home with a force comparable to the one that struck Kobe at 5:46 a.m. on Jan. 17. What happened to Japan's sixth largest city could happen to any number of cities in the U.S. Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, Boston and New York are, like Kobe, densely populated and, in most cases, largely unprepared for a direct hit from a high-magnitude quake. Cities with a large inventory of structures that don't conform to modern standards must step up retrofitting efforts. Officials need to encourage better lifeline protection so that, when damage does occur and fires break out, rescue workers have the means and the ability to help.

Subject Headings: Damage | Earthquakes | Urban areas | Japan | Earthquake engineering | Structural safety | Rehabilitation |

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