Smoke control equipment at almost 27 percent of the 556 subway stations checked nationwide in the wake of this week’s fatal subway fire in South Korea do not meet nonbinding government safety standards, transport ministry officials said Thursday.
Smoke control problems were found at 149 of the stations, and 99 stations do not have acceptable evacuation routes, they said.
The officials of the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry said fire-prevention measures of 11 subway operators were checked to see if their stations meet standards outlined in 1975. More than half of the operators have shortcomings.
Tokyo’s Teito Rapid Transit Authority operates 47 subway stations that do not meet smoke control standards, the nation’s worst record, followed by 39 stations in Nagoya, 29 in Osaka, seven in Sapporo and three in Yokohama, run by various operators, the ministry said.
All stations of the city-operated subway lines in Sendai, Kyoto, Kobe and Fukuoka, as well as subways operated by Saitama Railway Corp. in Saitama Prefecture, were found in compliance of the ministry’s standards on both smoke control and the number of evacuation routes.
“A little less than 30 percent of subway stations in Japan are not equipped with smoke control systems required by the safety standards,” said Toshiki Aoyama, vice transport minister. “While there are problems, such as purchasing land to set up vents, we would like to urge operators to take immediate action to comply with the standards.”
He said Japan’s subway trains are flame-resistant, but this would be of little help if an explosive, flammable liquid was spilled and ignited.
Aoyama said he will study the South Korean standards for fire resistance before re-examining Japan’s standards. Fire-prevention measures for subway stations were enhanced in 1975, when the government urged subway operators to provide several evacuation routes and provide adequate smoke control systems at every station.
Meanwhile, Yoshiaki Hirayama, director of the Chubu District Transport Bureau, said the problems at Nagoya’s municipal-run subway stations are not that serious. Urgent measures are not necessary to correct their shortcomings, he said.
“The (39 subway stations) that do not meet the safety standards are old ones, but they are not deep underground, so passengers could evacuate safely if they have enough time,” he said.
Hirayama said he will look into the situation and will ask for improvements if he deems them necessary.
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