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Osaka Pref. city board of ed. deemed concrete wall 'safe' in 2016 inspection

A police officer stands at the scene where a girl was trapped under a wall surrounding a pool that collapsed on top of her, in Takatsuki, Osaka Prefecture, on June 18, 2018. (Mainichi)

TAKATSUKI, Osaka -- A school wall that collapsed and killed a 9-year-old girl here in the June 18 Osaka Prefecture earthquake was deemed "safe" by a municipal board of education official two years ago, the board disclosed on June 21.

That evening, the education board held a closed explanatory meeting for parents and guardians of students at Takatsuki Municipal Juei Elementary School, after which it held a press conference with school principal Yoshimi Tanaka.

According to the education board and other sources, in the autumn of 2015, Tanaka toured the school premises and surrounding areas with an outside disaster prevention specialist and inspected potential danger zones. The specialist reportedly said of the concrete block wall, "This wall is probably dangerous."

Tanaka then filed a report with the education board and requested further investigation. A member of the board's academic affairs division visited the school in February 2016 and inspected the wall by tapping it with a hammer. The worker decided that the wall was "safe" and told the school as well that there was "no problem" with the structure. The board of education stated that it will seek to confirm the basis and other information on which this evaluation was made.

"I even expressed to the school on paper that (the wall) was dangerous," the 60-year-old disaster prevention specialist Ryoichi Yoshida told the Mainichi Shimbun.

When the earthquake measuring a lower 6 on the Japanese 7-point seismic intensity scale shook Takatsuki, the concrete block wall surrounding the Juei elementary pool collapsed and crushed 9-year-old Rina Miyake, who was on her way to the school.

The Takatsuki Municipal Government carries out expert inspections every three years, the last one being in January 2017. Regarding the latest inspection report, a city representative explained, "The contractor's memory is fuzzy, and we are currently confirming the safety status (of the wall) at the time."

(Japanese original by Kazuki Ikeda, Kensuke Yaoi, Yukinao Kin, Osaka City News Department)

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