Nearly 1,000 public school buildings in Japan still vulnerable to earthquakes: ministry

JIJI

A total of 978 buildings at public elementary and junior high schools in Japan were not adequately resistant against earthquakes as of April 1, although the number had fallen by 421 from a year before, the education ministry said Tuesday.

The ministry already missed its target of making all school buildings quake-resistant by the end of fiscal 2015.

Apparently factors behind the delay include local municipalities’ reluctance to conduct related work at schools that are slated to be consolidated, sources familiar with the situation said. The ministry has called for the buildings in question to be strengthened against quakes as soon as possible to ensure the safety of children and school staff.

The ministry also said 99.2 percent of buildings at public elementary and junior high schools were considered resistant to earthquakes as of the beginning of April, up 0.4 percentage point.

The survey covered a total of 115,849 school buildings and gymnasiums across the country excluding the towns of Futaba and Okuma in Fukushima Prefecture that host Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the site of the March 2011 nuclear meltdown following an earthquake and tsunami.

Measures against earthquakes were completed at all public school buildings in 12 of the country’s 47 prefectures. Those 12 are Akita, Tochigi, Saitama, Kanagawa, Fukui, Yamanashi, Gifu, Mie, Kyoto, Kagawa, Kumamoto and Oita.

The ministry asked the 172 municipalities that operate the 978 buildings yet to be made earthquake-resistant about when they expect measures against quakes for the buildings to be completed.

If progress is made as planned, the number of buildings that are not quake-resistant is projected to decline to 733 at the end of fiscal 2018, which runs through next March, then to 511 at the end of fiscal 2019 and to 360 at the end of fiscal 2020.

Meanwhile, 61 municipalities in 23 prefectures said they have yet to determine when they will be able to finish seismic strengthening work at buildings where measures against quakes are currently insufficient.

The survey also showed that measures to prevent suspended ceilings from falling had been taken at 98.2 percent of 32,505 school gymnasiums, including those for martial arts. The percentage rose 1.1 points from a year earlier.