The land ministry plans to subsidize safety upgrades for elevators so they can be reinforced to handle major earthquakes, sources said.
Starting this fiscal year, the ministry will subsidize elevator renovation to prevent accidents caused by earthquakes, such as an inland quake in Tokyo, the sources said.
In September 2009, the ministry revised an ordinance to enforce the building standards act, under which new elevators must have equipment to prevent them from moving when the doors are open.
New elevators are also required to strengthen the quake resistance of key devices and have a mechanism in place to immediately halt them at the nearest floor once preliminary tremors are detected and before major shaking starts.
The ministry will invite subsidy applications from building operators that plan to install the mandatory safety equipment for their existing elevators. The subsidy program, which will cover one-third of their renovation cost, will provide up to ¥4 million per unit. But adequate safety measures have not yet been taken for many of the estimated 700,000 elevators in Japan, mainly due to the high cost.
In the wake of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, there were at least 84 confirmed elevator strandings in Tokyo. The ministry has decided to speed efforts to draw up countermeasures in view of an estimate stating that more than 10,000 people will likely be get stuck in an elevator if a major inland quake strikes the capital, the sources said. Barrier-free buildings, including hospitals and apartments, that meet ministry-set standards such as fire resistance will be eligible for subsidies for elevator renovation, the sources added.