National

Osaka vows to strengthen disaster measures one year on from quake

Kyodo

School and municipal government officials in Osaka Prefecture reaffirmed Tuesday their commitment to beefing up anti-earthquake measures one year on from a magnitude 6.1 quake that struck the area and killed six people, including a girl walking to school.

At Juei Elementary School in the city of Takatsuki, where 9-year-old Rina Miyake was crushed to death after a concrete wall at the school collapsed on her, Mayor Takeshi Hamada and staff of the city-run school placed flowers and offered silent prayers.

“I have renewed my determination to never let something like this happen again,” Mie Sato, the school’s principal, said.

The collapse of the substandard wall prompted municipalities nationwide to reassess the safety of concrete walls, while the serious traffic disruptions that followed the quake highlighted the challenges faced by disaster-hit urban areas.

With a massive earthquake predicted to hit the region within the next 30 years along the Nankai Trough and trigger tsunamis, measures for protecting those stranded and foreign visitors have also been discussed.

“We should not let the memory of the disaster fade, but rather devote our energies to building a more resilient city,” Hamada said in his address to Takatsuki officials at city hall.

During a news conference, the mayor said the city will launch a new division within the board of education to ensure the safety of school facilities and promote education on disaster preparedness.

The city plans to remove all concrete walls installed at public elementary and junior high schools by the end of March 2023.

The powerful earthquake that hit Osaka Prefecture and its surrounding areas at 7:58 a.m. on June 18 last year injured more than 450 people across seven prefectures, according to local authorities.

The concrete wall surrounding the school’s swimming pool, which killed the schoolgirl upon its collapse, was 3.5 meters high including its support structure, violating the standard height of up to 2.2 meters. The collapsed wall was removed in July last year and has been replaced by a metallic fence.

A disaster prevention adviser had informed the school and the local education board about the dangers of the wall in 2015 but the board concluded in the following year there was no problem after doing its own inspection of the wall.

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