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Osaka gov't may have violated own fire ordinance by keeping 330,000 raincoats at city hall

Cardboard boxes full of raincoats are seen stacked up at the entrance hall of the Osaka Municipal Government's main building in this April 2020 file photo. (Mainichi/Hirokage Tabata)

OSAKA -- The Osaka Municipal Government may have violated the city's own fire prevention ordinance by keeping some 330,000 raincoats together at the main city government building's entrance hall, the Mainichi Shimbun has learned.

The raincoats were stored in the building after Osaka Mayor Ichiro Matsui called in mid-April for residents to donate raincoats as alternatives to protective gowns, which were in scarce supply at medical facilities during the coronavirus outbreak.

The drive led to around 330,000 of the items being sent to the city hall. But under the city's fire prevention regulations, raincoats and other synthetic resin products are "designated flammable objects," and need to be reported to the fire department when stored in large quantities in one place. Despite this, the city government did not report the raincoats to the fire department.

The municipal government's health bureau in charge of the raincoats has admitted that had been warned about the raincoat storage by the fire department, and commented, "We were not aware of the ordinance and are considering reporting (to the fire department)."

Once the raincoats started arriving at city hall, the municipal government mainly used the first-floor entrance hall of the main building for storage. Even after the city distributed about half of them to hospitals and senior centers in the city, it kept the remaining 150,000 in the same place.

According to the Osaka Municipal Fire Department, the fire prevention ordinance requires a notice to be submitted to the fire chief with jurisdiction in the area when 3 metric tons or more of synthetic resin products are being stored or handled.

The fire department apparently confirmed the suspected violation of the ordinance after an outside party brought the issue to its attention. The city's health bureau moved the raincoats to another facility after receiving a warning, but it has not decided what to do with them after that. The city government is considering submitting them to the fire department.

(Japanese original by Kensuke Yaoi, Osaka City News Department)

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