National

Hokkaido housing estate residents outraged over Asahi Kasei revelation

Kyodo

Residents of a public housing estate in Kushiro, Hokkaido, expressed concern Thursday over the safety of their building a day after it came to light that Asahi Kasei Construction Materials Corp. fabricated piling work data during the construction of the facility.

“I was shocked as I believed the building was sound. What would happen in the event of an earthquake?,” asked Sachiko Sato, 62, head of the residents’ association for the housing estate run by the Hokkaido Prefectural Government.

Sato said a Hokkaido prefectural official on Wednesday night explained the details to her regarding the falsified data. Officials plan to meet with all the residents of the estate at a later date.

“I can’t live in the public housing free from anxiety (now),” lamented 72-year-old Katsuyuki Mogami, vice president of the residents’ association. “I feel like now, when I see a crack in the building, it will have resulted because of the faulty foundation work.”

The project in Kushiro was not included in the 41 projects in nine prefectures whose piling work involved an Asahi Kasei Construction Materials employee who fabricated data for a tilting condominium in Yokohama, according to the Hokkaido Prefectural Government.

Meanwhile, experts and officials from other municipalities voiced concern that additional data falsification involving the Tokyo-based firm could have taken place at other construction sites.

Out of 41 projects that the Asahi Kasei Construction Materials employee handled, most of them — 23 — were in Aichi Prefecture.

An official there was at a loss for words when he was informed of the news.

“We are totally not sure yet whether we need to take new measures in Aichi Prefecture,” said Koichi Uchida, the building guidance division chief for the prefectural government.

An official with the Osaka Prefectural Government said Asahi Kasei Construction Materials had lost all credibility and a review of the company’s construction projects will now need to be carried out.

There are 262 such projects in Osaka Prefecture, although the employee in question was not involved in any of them.

Itsuki Nakabayashi, a professor of urban disaster prevention at Meiji University, raised concerns that Asahi Kasei Construction Materials might be just the tip of the iceberg.

“There is a possibility that the entire industry other than Asahi Kasei Construction Materials took measures to falsify data if the necessary data couldn’t be taken,” Nakabayashi said.

The professor pointed out that contractors and subcontractors often rushed to meet deadlines. When constructing buildings, contractors should be given time to make sure they are safe, he said.

Nakabayashi also called on the infrastructure ministry to come up with guidelines to encourage the industry to set up reasonable time frames for construction. “This should not be treated as an individual matter,” he said.

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