• Kyodo


Police turned over to prosecutors Monday their case of suspected negligence against a demolition worker and a foreman regarding a fire that gutted the historic Nakaza theater in September.

Osaka police, however, did not pursue charges against employees of Osaka Gas Co., which provided a map showing incorrect information on the gas main layout at the theater site — one of the causes of an explosion that led to the fire, in which four people were injured.

They also did not pursue charges against Takenaka Corp., the contractor of the demolition work.

The companies are not considered directly responsible, a police official said.

The 26-year-old demolition worker used a lighter to look for a part to close off a gas valve, even though gas was spewing from the valve, causing the explosion at around 3 a.m. Sept. 9. His 27-year-old foreman is also being held accountable.

The worker and his colleagues were extracting gas from pipes to be removed under work subcontracted by Osaka Gas as part of the demolition work.

Police determined the worker was negligent because he was aware gas was leaking from the valve, which was supposed to be closed, but nonetheless proceeded to ignite his lighter.

The worker, a 32-year-old colleague and two firefighters were injured.

Osaka Gas in October acknowledged responsibility for the incident and reprimanded nine people, including its president.

The fire destroyed the theater in the Dotonbori district in central Osaka and damaged 19 restaurants and bars along neighboring Hozenji Yokocho lane.

The theater for kabuki and stage dramas was established in 1653 and the building that burned down was constructed in 1948.

The theater’s operator, movie distributor Shochiku Co., closed it in 1999 as part of a streamlining effort.

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