• Kyodo

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Two men were killed and four others injured Monday as gale-force winds toppled cranes in two separate locations in Ibaraki Prefecture, local police said.

The accidents took place at Kashima port and in the town of Kamisu, some 2 km to the southwest. Police began investigating the sites Tuesday to determine if inadequate safety management played a role in the accidents.

The first accident occurred at around 3:20 p.m. when a crane unloading iron ore from a ship at Sumitomo Metal Industries Ltd.’s Kashima Steelworks fell over after colliding with another crane that had been blown out of position by the gale-force winds.

Yoichi Ohira, 31, one of the workers at the site, fell into the harbor. Police found his body floating in the sea late Tuesday afternoon.

His coworker sustained minor injuries.

Six other cranes at the site also bumped into each other, injuring one worker.

About 10 minutes later, at the steelworks’ mill for making large welded pipes, three cranes suspended on rails some 9 meters in the air fell to the ground due to the winds. Shigeru Komatsu, 58, who was operating one of the cranes, was crushed to death. The operators of the two other cranes sustained injuries.

In addition to police, officials from the local labor standards inspection office also came to inspect the accident sites.

According to Sumitomo Metal, winds of up to 216 kph were recorded at the steelworks at around the time of the accidents. The local office of the Japan Coast Guard said that winds of up to 162 kph were recorded at Kashima port around that time.

At the port itself, a Panamanian-registered freighter that was pushed by the winds bumped into two vessels in succession, including an Indonesian-registered cargo ship.

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