The Great Hanshin Earthquake Disaster, or Kobe earthquake as it is more commonly known overseas, was an earthquake in Japan that measured 7.2 on the Richter scale. It occurred on January 17, 1995 at 5:46:52am in the southern part of Hyogo Prefecture and lasted for approximately 20 seconds. The focus of the earthquake was located 16.0km beneath its epicenter, on the northern end of Awaji Island, 20 km away from the city of Kobe with a population of 1.5 million.
Approximately 6,434 people (final estimate as of 2006), mainly in Kobe, lost their lives as a result of the earthquake. Because Kobe was the closest major city to the epicentre of the earthquake, it was hit by the strongest shock waves; the earthquake was felt less strongly in cities further away.
Ten spans of the Hanshin Expressway Route 43 in three locations in Kobe and Nishinomiya were knocked over, blocking a link that carried forty percent of Osaka-Kobe road traffic. Half of the elevated expressway's piers were damaged in some way, and the entire route was not reopened until September 30, 1996. Three bridges on the less-trafficked Route 2 were damaged, but the highway was reopened well ahead of Route 43 and served as one of the main intercity road links for a time.