Work continues to fill huge sinkhole in center of Fukuoka

Kyodo

Construction workers continued work in downtown Fukuoka on Wednesday to fill in a huge sinkhole that opened up the previous day beneath a major road as the mayor of the city said the Fukuoka Municipal Government aims to have the road repaired and open for traffic by early next week.

The hole at an intersection near JR Hakata Station measures around 30 meters long, 27 meters wide and 15 meters deep. The municipal government aims to fill it with special soil that includes cement so that it solidifies easily. About 7,000 cubic meters of soil are required, according to government officials.

The city government Wednesday held a meeting with Saibu Gas Co., Nippon Telegraph and Telephone West Corp. and other firms to discuss ways to restore essential utilities.

Fukuoka Mayor Soichiro Takashima told reporters that the city government aims to complete pouring the special soil into the hole by Wednesday evening, restore utilities by Sunday and open the affected road to traffic Monday.

Police have blocked off nearby areas since Tuesday as some gas pipes and power lines are broken. Blackouts caused by the sinkhole were all resolved by Wednesday morning.

Traffic remains regulated in areas near the site while a few buildings continue to be subject to an evacuation advisory, which was issued for up to 10 buildings at one point. Authorities have already closed two shelters set up for evacuated residents.

The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry conducted an inspection of the city’s transportation bureau again Wednesday morning following one late Tuesday as part of its investigation into the incident.

The collapse, which is believed to have happened in connection with ongoing construction work on a subway line extension, occurred at around 5:15 a.m. Tuesday.

The incident disrupted traffic and banking systems, but there were no injuries.

Earth and sand were reported to have started falling from the ceiling of a tunnel that was bored for an extension to the Nanakuma subway line, 50 minutes before the cave-in occurred.

But the city’s transportation bureau said the foundations are solid enough to support a tunnel, although the base may have degraded over time.

Businesses were hit by the incident, sparking fears of more cave-ins in the area.

Hotels and restaurants received a flurry of calls to cancel reservations, an aftershock that could spread through one of the biggest commercial districts in Japan ahead of the year-end shopping season.

“I’m worried about the impact on reservations for year-end parties,” a restaurant manager said, even though the restaurant itself was not damaged by the sinkhole.

“We’re not sure about our prospects,” said an employee of a hotel near the site that was forced to move all of its guests to another hotel on Tuesday.