Negligence probed in sewer deaths

Lax evacuation judgment suspected; search continues for workers missing in flash flood

Kyodo News

Tokyo police inspected a sewage system Wednesday in Toshima Ward after five workers were washed away in a downpour-triggered torrent, leaving three dead and the other two missing.

The body of the third victim, Akira Hamada, 29, was found Wednesday in the Kanda River, police said.

They are investigating whether, considering the thunderstorms in the area, greater efforts should have been made to evacuate the workers from the underground pipe.

The Metropolitan Police Department said the search for the missing two was continuing.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s Sewerage Bureau suspended all sewer work until a panel to probe the accident can issue a report, possibly later this month.

The search was focused downstream of the accident site, including the Kanda River and the Koraku pumping station in Bunkyo Ward.

Hiroshi Oshima, a 49-year-old employee of Hokuritsu Construction & Industry Co., was found unconscious Tuesday about 3 km away in the Kanda River and later pronounced dead.

Makoto Terai, 44, an employee of the Tachibana Giken Kogyo, a subcontractor of Hokuritsu Construction, was later found dead at the Koraku pumping station. Hamada also worked for the subcontractor.

“It was impossible to predict such a concentrated heavy rain lashing the area,” an official of Tokyo-based Hokuritsu Construction said.

The missing two — Ryuji Matsuo, 31, Hiroaki Endo, 38 — both work for Tachibana Giken Kogyo.

Eight people were working on the aging sewer pipe near JR Mejiro Station starting at 9 a.m. Tuesday.