7,300 schools highly vulnerable to quakes

Kyodo News

More than 7,300 school buildings are at high risk of collapse in the event of a powerful earthquake, the education ministry said Tuesday.

A survey by the ministry on the nation’s 124,976 public schools also found that the quake resistance of 41,206 buildings is insufficient.

The ministry said 7,309 could crumble if hit by a quake measuring upper 6 on the Japanese seismic scale of 7.

The number of school buildings at risk of collapse declined by 3,347 from a year earlier, while the ratio with adequate quake resistance rose 4.7 percentage points to 67.0 percent, the ministry said.

The government has provided more subsidies to local authorities to work on schools since a major quake leveled a huge number of school buildings in Sichuan Province, China, last June.

The ministry plans to provide subsidies to make 16,000 school buildings quake-resistant in the current fiscal year. The ministry also expects to eliminate school structures at risk of collapse by March 2011 and raise the quake resistance ratio to around 78 percent.

Of the 83,770 buildings proven to be fully quake resistant, 50,180 were built under newer quake-resistance standards adopted in 1982, the survey found.

By prefecture, Osaka had the most high-risk school buildings at 527, followed by Hokkaido with 438 and Hyogo with 351. Okinawa had the least at 15.

Kanagawa had the highest percentage of safe buildings at 93.4 percent, followed by Miyagi and Shizuoka at 90.1 percent. Nagasaki was the lowest at 46.6 percent.

Municipal governments are required by law to disclose the results of quake-resistance inspection of the schools in their jurisdiction, but 320 of the 1,880 municipalities, or 17 percent, did not do so, the ministry said.

“It appears that those municipalities failed to disclose the results because they want to avoid causing a panic. School facilities can be evacuation destinations,” an official said, adding the ministry will start pushing the municipalities to disclose the results.