National

Takatsuki to remove all concrete walls 1.2 meters tall or higher following school girl's death in Osaka quake

Kyodo

The mayor of Takatsuki, a city in Osaka Prefecture hit by a major earthquake last month, said all concrete block walls measuring 1.2 meters or higher at public facilities in the city will be removed, after a 9-year-old girl was killed by the collapse of a substandard wall at her school during the quake.

Takeshi Hamada said Monday that walls meeting building standards will be no exception. The legal upper limit for the height of concrete-block walls is set at 2.2 meters. The city said it set the benchmark of 1.2 meters for wall removal in light of the average height of children in the early grades of elementary school.

Following the magnitude 6.1 quake on June 18, a 40-meter-long wall surrounding the swimming pool of Juei Elementary School collapsed and crushed Rina Miyake. The total height of the structure was 3.5 meters — a 1.6-meter wall on top of a 1.9-meter concrete foundation — exceeding the legal cap of 2.2 meters. It also lacked legally required support blocks.

After the tragedy, the city inspected 59 municipal elementary and junior high schools, and concrete block walls suspected to be in violation of building codes were found at 15 schools in addition to Juei. The Takatsuki government had already decided to remove them.

In line with the new policy announced by the mayor, walls at 14 other schools will be taken down by the end of August. Those include walls that are lower than 1.2 meters but show signs of potential danger, such as cracks or tilting.

For concrete block walls at private facilities, Hamada said the city will provide up to ¥200,000 to help remove walls that measure 80 centimeters or higher and face the street. If they are in a school zone, the subsidy will increase to ¥300,000. The Takatsuki government will start accepting requests for the financial aid later this month.

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