Archive for Tuesday, January 17, 1995


January 17, 1995


KU students from Japan were worried about friends and relatives as they tried unsuccessfully to call home after today's major earthquake.

Post-doctoral student Yoshinosuke Usuki stayed up most of the night watching the news.

Undergraduate Yumi Chikamori was trying to call relatives about every five minutes without success.

The Kansas University students were among several in Lawrence who were shocked and worried about friends and relatives after a major earthquake early today in southwest Japan.

The death toll was more than 1,600 this morning and was expected to rise as many people were feared trapped under collapsed buildings.

The center of the quake, which measured 7.2 on the Richter scale, was near the port city of Kobe. Osaka also was hit hard.

"It's quite terrible for me because my aunt lives near Kobe; I cannot contact her," said Usuki, who teaches organic chemistry at Osaka City University.

He came to Lawrence with his family in September.

"If I were in Osaka, I might be injured," he said. "My son is 8 months old, so I think I'm happy to be in Lawrence."

Telephone service to the area affected by the quake was virtually cut off this morning, students said.

"I've been trying to call every five minutes," Chikamori said while television news reports blared in the background of her apartment. "I'm just going to keep trying."

She has an aunt, uncle and cousin who live in Kobe.

The earthquake shattered Japan's belief that sophisticated engineering would enable its newer buildings and roads to withstand a major quake.

After damaging earthquakes in the United States, Japanese experts had confidently predicted that roadways in Japan would stand up to even a serious quake. But sections of several major expressways collapsed, as did many modern buildings.

Fumiko Yamamoto, KU associate professor of East Asian languages and cultures, said that didn't surprise her.

"I'm never sure if any technology can stand against that," she said. "We have seen that with the San Francisco earthquake -- human technology can't stand up to natural disasters."

But Usuki said the amount of damage surprised him "because in Osaka, we have huge technologies against earthquakes."

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