School was warned about wall that crushed girl to death during Osaka earthquake

Authorities were told more than three years ago that the concrete wall was potentially dangerous

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 June, 2018, 11:51am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 June, 2018, 9:23pm

School authorities were warned about a substandard concrete wall that collapsed and killed a nine-year-old girl after last week’s earthquake in the Osaka area, Kyodo news agency reported on Friday.

Disaster prevention adviser Ryoichi Yoshida said he told the girl’s school and the local education board more than three years ago about the danger of the breeze block wall around the swimming pool at the Juei Elementary School in Takatsuki, Osaka Prefecture.

Rina Miyake was on her way to school when the magnitude-6.1 quake rocked the region on Monday.

Yoshida, who gives anti-disaster lectures across Japan, made a speech on disaster prevention at the junior school on November 2, 2015 after assessing dangerous points on routes taken by pupils going to school by walking on the roads himself. He told the school’s vice principal at the time about the risk posed by the concrete wall.

To remind the school about the danger, he sent an email to the school on December 7 the same year and attached data to back his claim. He warned the school that concrete walls built before the 1981 revision to the building standards law needed particular attention.

According to city officials, the education board tested the wall by hitting it with a hammer in February 2016 then told the school it was “safe”.

But Yoshida said: “I wonder whether concrete experts have checked the wall. The wall’s weakness can be determined from its plan but if no such data is left, I am sceptical about their response.”

The wall, which was about 3.5 metres high including its 1.9-metre foundation, was made of blocks piled up higher than legal standards with insufficient reinforcement.

Similar concrete walls believed to have violated the legal standards have been found at seven other schools in Takatsuki.