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Water pipe bridge collapses in west Japan forcing people to line up for supplies

People line up at a temporary water station in the city of Wakayama on Oct. 4, 2021. (Mainichi/Kenji Ikai)
The damaged Musota water pipe bridge, part of which fell into the Kinokawa River, is seen in the rear, in the city of Wakayama on Oct. 4, 2021. (Mainichi/Tadashi Kako)

WAKAYAMA -- The water supply continued to be cut off in a large area in this west Japan city on Oct. 4, one day after the collapse of a water pipe bridge over the Kinokawa River, and the city government began to respond by setting up water stations.

    About 60,000 households are feared to be without water, and institutions including elementary and junior high schools in the affected areas have been temporarily closed. Medical institutions may also be affected, and the Wakayama Municipal Government is hurrying to restore the water supply.

    According to the city government, at around 3:45 p.m. on Oct. 3 they detected an abnormal amount of water at the Kano water purification plant on the south side of the river, and an official confirmed that the central part of the roughly 550-meter-long Musota water pipe bridge had collapsed over a distance of about 60 meters. The water pipe on the bridge sends water to the north side of the river, and it is believed that the collapse caused the water supply to be cut off from that night.

    Approximately 138,000 people in 60,000 households, or 40% of the city population, live in areas where there is a risk of water outages. The city government set up emergency water stations at 22 elementary schools from 7 a.m. on Oct. 4.

    At the municipal Nozaki Elementary School, two employees of the city's enterprise bureau worked to supply water. Citizens lined up with plastic bottles and polyethylene tanks in their hands and voiced their concerns about how long the water supply would be cut off.

    The city closed a total of 37 municipal kindergartens, elementary, junior high and senior high schools on Oct. 4. Due to the water outages, many supermarkets are selling out of bottled drinks.

    The bridge was completed in 1975 and its intended 48-year period of use was scheduled to expire in 2023. The staff visually inspects the bridge once a month, and no abnormalities were reportedly found in September.

    (Japanese original by Hiroko Matsumoto, Satoshi Yamaguchi, and Ryota Hashimoto, Wakayama Bureau)

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