People pile into shelters in quake-hit Osaka Prefecture as rains stir landslide fears

Kyodo

The number of people taking refuge at shelters in earthquake-hit Osaka Prefecture grew by more than 1,000 on Wednesday as rain that started in the early hours sparked fears of landslides, with some residents returning to the facilities.

As of 8 a.m., 1,700 people were staying in public shelters in the prefecture, marking a sharp increase from the 580 on Tuesday night, according to the Osaka Prefectural Government.

The Meteorological Agency issued a heavy rain warning for the city of Ibaraki and other parts of the prefecture, forecasting up to 150 millimeters of rainfall in the 24 hours through 6 p.m. on Wednesday. Some areas may see torrential rain with thunder, it said.

Local authorities have covered house roofs damaged in Monday’s earthquake with plastic sheets to prepare for the rain and advised some 1,800 people to evacuate over fears of possible landslides.

Most public elementary and middle schools reopened in the hard-hit city of Takatsuki, but the city of Minoo decided to continue suspending classes at their schools as a precautionary measure.

As minor quakes continued to rattle the area Wednesday, the number of people taking refuge at shelters stood at roughly 1,700 as of 8 a.m., almost unchanged from the figure the previous morning, according to the Osaka Prefectural Government.

“I am scared of the aftershocks, so I am staying at the evacuation center,” said Moriyuki Nakahashi, 67, who sustained a cut on his forehead that required stitches after a bookcase fell on him. “My house roof is already letting water in, and I am worried because I have not spread a sheet over it,” he added.

“I want to stay here while there are still earthquakes, but I don’t know how long I will be allowed to do so,” said 85-year-old Chizuyo Kobayashi, who was staying at an evacuation center in Takatsuki.

Kobayashi, who has physical disabilities, said she was carried from her apartment on the sixth floor to the ground floor using the stairs, as the elevator failed after the quake.

The magnitude 6.1 quake (lower 6 on the Japanese scale of 7) that rocked the area on Monday morning, with five fatalities reported, was the biggest in the Kansai area since a magnitude 7.3 quake devastated Kobe in adjoining Hyogo Prefecture and its vicinity in 1995, killing more than 6,000 people.

The victims of Monday’s quake included Rina Miyake, a 9-year-old girl in Takatsuki who was hit by a concrete wall that collapsed on her as she was walking to school.

Police have launched an investigation into the fatality, suspecting it could be a case of negligence resulting in death due to shoddy construction, according to investigative sources.

Meanwhile, Sharp Corp. said it is considering ways to offer replacements for Sharp-made televisions and other products damaged in the quake for half their regular price as an expression of “condolences from a company that was born and bred in Osaka,” executive Yoshihiro Hashimoto said.

The electronics firm is headquartered in Sakai, Osaka Prefecture.