January 28, 1995 in Nation/World

Aftershock Leaves Kobe Frayed Soldiers Continue Search For Missing As Buildings Teeter

Greg Myre Associated Press

A mild aftershock jolted the city center today, rocking thousands of half-destroyed buildings already in danger of collapsing from last week’s devastating earthquake.

Saturday’s quake had a magnitude of 3.0, the Central Meteorological Agency reported. That was enough force to jounce precariously standing highway overpasses and apartment buildings.

There were no immediate reports of damage from the 8:12 a.m. aftershock, which was centered six miles underground in eastern Hyogo state.

More than 15,000 soldiers and police continued Saturday to clear smashed concrete in the search for 29 people still missing from the Jan. 17 quake, which claimed 5,090 lives.

The 7.2 magnitude quake was the second-worst to hit Japan this century. In addition to the heavy loss of life, 88,000 buildings were destroyed or severely damaged.

In desperation, but with perseverance, tens of thousands of quake victims queued in orderly lines Friday to apply for new homes they’re unlikely to get.

Noriyoshi Kochi, a 26-year-old accountant, was one of the first of more than 37,000 victims to apply for just 2,700 units of temporary government housing. His tale is like many others in Kobe: His home was flattened and his job is in jeopardy.

“My company is open, but I’m not sure our clients can pay their bills because many had their businesses destroyed,” Kochi said.

But Kochi and his mother, who lives with him, don’t fall into any of the top-priority categories - such as being elderly or handicapped - for housing. So he rates his chance of getting a place to live as “most likely zero.”

The housing line was neat and without commotion, but its length showed how edgy the 225,000 homeless in Kobe are getting. People don’t have to apply for the housing until Feb. 2, but many lined up Friday - the first day applications were being accepted - just to be sure.

This devastated port city lies on a narrow strip of land between the sea and the mountains, leaving limited space to build housing.

The government, meanwhile, has come under increasing fire for allowing turf battles between ministries to interfere with the rescue efforts - and for accepting assistance from only 22 of the 59 countries that offered to help.

While officials are saying no thanks, hundreds of thousands of refugees are still packed into cold shelters.

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