National

Osaka takes stock a week after violent rush-hour quake

Kyodo, JIJI

Hundreds of Osaka residents were living in shelters Monday as the city and prefecture began to take account of the damage from the short but violent rush-hour temblor that killed five and injured over 400 across Kansai a week ago.

On Monday morning, 469 people were in public shelters, mostly in the northern part of the prefecture, where the shaking from the magnitude 6.1 earthquake was most intense and damaged thousands of homes.

“The gym does not have air conditioning. I feel exhausted as the hot days continue,” said a 41-year-old woman sheltering at a converted gymnasium in Ibaraki. She said she planned to go home later in the day but was worried about a cracked wall in her apartment. “I’m not sure whether I can return to my everyday life.”

Another person at the shelter lamented the uncertainty created by the quake, which left his apartment at risk.

“I cannot make future plans and it feels like each day passes slowly,” said construction worker Tatsuya Kimura of Takatsuki, who is living with his family in the shelter. Kimura said his apartment was assessed as having problems with quake resistance.

Authorities have confirmed that the quake damaged 8,089 residences in the region: 7,467 in Osaka, 617 in Kyoto, three in Nara and two in Hyogo.

On the bright side, most utilities — gas, electricity and water — had been restored.

In Takatsuki, where three people died, Mayor Takeshi Hamada and around 100 officials offered prayers at City Hall at 7:58 a.m., when the earthquake struck.

One of the victims was a 9-year-old girl who was killed when a concrete wall at Juei Elementary School fell on her.

“I am keenly aware of my responsibility for the accident at the school, which should have been a safe environment,” Hamada said of deceased fourth-grader Rina Miyake.

The mayor later offered flowers at the school, where Principal Yoshimi Tanaka and teachers offered bouquets and prayers.

On Monday, the concrete-block wall was still covered by tarps, and the surrounding roads remained off-limits.

“I’m sorry (for the girl) and doubt whether safety checks were thoroughly conducted” on the concrete wall, said a 31-year-old neighbor who placed sweets at a makeshift shrine set up for the student.

The wall, which was found to be below building standards, set off inspections across the nation. Since then, damaged or tilting concrete walls have been found at more than 120 public schools in Osaka Prefecture.

On Monday in Higashiyodogawa Ward, where Minoru Yasui, 80, was killed by another wall during the quake, his friends offered flowers and prayers. Yasui had been on his way to watch over children heading to school, something he did every day.

“My wish is that he rests in peace,” said Masakane Mita, 77, who also helped look after the students with Yasui.

“He was friendly and greeted us every day,” said 16-year-old high school student Tomoki Shimazu.

Governments have started accepting applications for building assessments so displaced residents can get certificates needed for financial aid, though many will likely be told to not to return for the time being.

In the meantime, Osaka Monorail Co. had resumed train services on all lines Monday, a day after it was forced to cancel them due to carriage damage. The monorail links the city of Kadoma with Itami airport.

In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government will help put people’s lives back in order.