SHIZUOKA – Industry minister Yoichi Miyazawa said Tuesday safety measures may have been inadequate at a flower bed in Shizuoka Prefecture where two men were killed and five people were injured by an electric fence.
“There is a possibility that appropriate measures such as putting up danger signs and installing a breaker system was not taken,” Miyazawa said.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industries oversees the electricity business law, which covers electric fences. METI dispatched two officials to inspect the site.
“We will cooperate with the farm ministry and other relevant ministries to increase public awareness,” Miyazawa said.
Farm minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, meanwhile, said in a separate news conference that he will notify in writing to prefectural governments to take thorough measures to prevent short circuits when farmers install electric fences.
The government held a meeting in the afternoon to discuss preventive measures.
On Sunday, Masatomo Ozaki, 42, and his son, Raiku, 8, and Raiku’s friend, Kaio Iwamura, also 8, were playing in a river in the town of Nishi-Izu when they suddenly started screaming and fell down.
Ozaki’s wife, Iwamura’s parents and Sumie Yamamoto, 75, a local resident, went into the river to rescue them but received electric shocks as well.
The two fathers, Ozaki and Tomohiro Iwamura, 47, died, apparently from electrocution. Kaio Iwamura suffered severe burns to his left hand while his mother, Takako Iwamura, was also seriously injured.
Yamamoto, Raiku Ozaki, and his mother, Yuka Ozaki, sustained minor injuries.
The two families were having a picnic there.
On Tuesday, police inspected the area to find out whether the person who installed the electric fence had followed proper safety measures, saying they are looking into the case on suspicion of professional negligence resulting in the death.
The 1-meter-high wire fence was set up on the riverside by a man who lives in the area to guard a bed of hydrangea flowers from wild deer.
Ozaki’s wife is related to the man.
Part of the fence was broken and a wire was submerged in the river. The fence was connected to a transformer and was plugged into an electrical socket in a tool shed located on the other side of the river.
People who went into the river after the accident said they also felt weak electric shocks, police said.
According to Shizuoka officials, regulations require the installation of an earth leakage breaker around electric fences carrying a charge of 30 volts or more. The fence in Nishi-Izu carried a charge of 100 volts, according to the police.
Officials at the local branch of the Electrical Safety Inspection Association said the current passing through the fence had enough power to cause a fatal shock.
“Getting into contact with water must have been really dangerous at the time the accident occurred, as electricity was flowing into the river,” the official said. “The human body, which contains sodium chloride, is a good conductor of electricity.”
When a person’s skin is dry, electrical resistance is high, but when it’s wet, electricity instantly flows inside the body, the official said.
The official explained that a person may die of electrocution even if the rate of only one-666th of the standard household voltage of 20 amperes reaches the heart.
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