National

Post-quake survey finds quarter of Japan’s schools have dangerous external walls

JIJI

The education ministry said Friday that an emergency survey found that about a quarter of schools in the country, or 12,640 institutions, have dangerous external walls.

The survey was conducted after a student of an elementary school in Osaka Prefecture was crushed to death when a concrete block wall at the school collapsed in a major earthquake in June.

Of the 12,640 schools, 10,122, or some 80 percent, took temporary measures after discovering problems with their walls, such as removing the structures.

The survey covered a total of 51,085 national, prefectural, municipal and private schools, including kindergartens, elementary, junior high and high schools, universities and special-needs schools.

They were asked about conditions of their concrete block, brick and stone walls as of June 19, the day after the powerful quake rocked mainly the northern part of the prefecture, and about the results of visual inspections and emergency measures implemented by July 27.

According to the survey, 30,733 schools, or 60.2 percent of the total, do not have concrete block or other external walls, indicating that over 60 percent of schools with such walls had problems with the structures.

The survey results came as many schools have prioritized making their buildings resistant to earthquakes following the January 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake in Kobe and nearby areas and the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, rather than taking measures to enhance the safety of their walls, a ministry official said.

“We had the impression that there are many school walls with safety issues,” the official said.

To help remove or repair problematic walls, the ministry plans to use an existing state subsidy program and seek necessary funds under the government’s budget for fiscal 2019, which starts next April.

Of the 12,640 schools, 10,799 were found with walls that breached building standards regulations, including one rule limiting wall heights to 2.2 meters. Degradation and damage were found on walls at 7,473 schools.

By prefecture, the proportion of schools with problematic walls was the highest in Okinawa at 52.6 percent, followed by Kochi at 45.3 percent and Fukuoka at 43.4 percent. Hokkaido had the lowest figure at 4.5 percent, followed by Iwate at 5.0 percent and Nagano at 6.8 percent.

By the end of this fiscal year, the ministry will conduct a follow-up survey on progress in measures taken by schools and results of inspections for the inner part of school walls.