• Jiji


Local government officials inspected in 2010 a soil mound from which the recent deadly mudslide apparently began in Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture, according to sources.

Officials of the Atami city and Shizuoka prefectural governments visited the section of land raised with soil, together with the developer of the area and the current landowner.

They confirmed that the soil contained industrial waste, the sources said Monday.

But work to address the problem stopped halfway. The local governments may have neglected to confirm that the problem was addressed appropriately.

The mudslide on July 3 this year, which killed at least 18 people and damaged about 130 buildings, has been found to have started around the section raised with soil by the developer.

The Atami and Shizuoka governments instructed the developer to remove the industrial waste after learning that the soil contained the waste in August 2010. At the time, the developer was negotiating to sell the land to the current owner.

During the on-site inspection, prefectural government officials said that the waste should be removed and that soil drainage work should be carried out.

A construction company whose official participated in the inspection undertook the waste removal and drainage work.

The work, partially carried out, was left unfinished apparently because the developer and the current owner failed to agree which side would pay the costs for the work.

So far, the Shizuoka government has explained that the industrial waste in the soil was “wood waste” and that it confirmed in November 2010 that the waste had been removed.

According to a source who participated in the on-site inspection, however, there were “concrete pieces, tires and other waste” sticking up from the ground.

Only about 10% of the drainage work was complete, the source said. “I wonder why the local governments overlooked (it).”

A senior official of the Atami government said, “We aren’t aware of such information, but we’ll make everything clear through an investigation.”

The current owner, who acquired the land in February 2011, does not remember making the on-site inspection or signing a contract with the construction company, according to an attorney.

The total amount of soil piled up in the area by the developer reached 70,000 cubic meters, far above 36,000 cubic meters written in the company’s notification to local authorities. The company was told to stop the land-raising work, but it did not.

“We warned of the danger of the site five or six years ago, but local authorities failed to act,” said a local resident whose property was damaged by the mudslide.

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