National

Japan to boost protection of cultural properties after Okinawa and Paris blazes

Kyodo

The culture agency decided Monday on a five-year plan to enhance the protection of cultural properties against fire, in the wake of blazes that destroyed Shuri Castle in Okinawa Prefecture and Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris earlier this year.

The plan, set to start in fiscal 2020, focuses on World Heritage sites and national treasures, and calls for the installation of sprinklers and fire hoses as well as replacement of old electrical systems and fire-extinguishing equipment, to protect the properties and visitors.

It also calls for owners of the properties to compile a disaster prevention plan, hold regular drills and enhance anti-fire measures at nighttime.

Shuri Castle, which is located at a World Heritage site, burned to the ground in late October, with an electrical system fault suspected to be the cause. The incident occurred on the heels of a fire that engulfed Notre Dame Cathedral in the French capital in April.

While the Shuri Castle buildings were equipped with fire alarms and extinguishers, they did not have sprinklers as installing them is only mandatory at facilities offering accommodation.

As its main building was reconstructed, and not designated as a national treasure or cultural heritage, the Cultural Affairs Agency has since held an emergency survey of 55 similarly undesignated buildings on World Heritage premises and found that 45 percent of them did not have a fire alarm.

The five-year plan calls for protecting such reconstructed buildings by taking the same anti-fire measures as for national treasures.

The government has earmarked a combined ¥9.7 billion for fire prevention measures in the supplementary budget for fiscal 2019 through March and the budget for fiscal 2020, which will start in April.

It will provide subsidies to property managers to cover up to 85 percent of the costs of installing fire-extinguishing equipment to facilitate the protection of properties.

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