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Gov't orders check of concrete walls after Osaka quake deaths

43 Comments
By Mari Yamaguchi

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Once again, AFTER the fact! These are public buildings, and by law, they are supposed to be checked annually. I participated in an inspection of my daughters elementary school when I was in the PTA, and learned about it then, over 25 years ago!

There was obviously negligence on someone's part for not getting it done, and while no one is going to step forward and take responsibility, someone should be losing a hell of a lot of sleep for not doing their job!

9 ( +13 / -4 )

Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport Keiichi Ishii said he planned to raise awareness of the potential risks of cinder-block walls among private property owners as well.

Raising awareness isn't enough. In case he's unaware, kids walk to school here, throughout neighborhoods with all manner of hazards, narrow streets w/out sidewalks, deep, uncovered drainage ditches etc. It's not merely about walls immediately adjacent to schools. That poor 80 year old man, a school volunteer, wasn't next to a school when he was crushed to death.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

...exceeded the legal height limit of 2.2 meters (about 7 feet). On Tuesday, police investigated the site and city officials on suspicion of professional negligence.

Question: who is responsible for ensuring that walls do not exceed the legal height limit?

Of course this is Japanese so the answer will not be one individual person but rather multiple layers of people in different organisations, so no one ever gets held responsible and the same thing can happen again and again.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

A little too late for little 9-year-old Rina Miyake, isn't it.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

It happened despite the block walls were ferro-enforced inside.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Another knee-jerk reaction to an unfortunate accident but how are they going to check all the cinder block walls they're all over Japan

2 ( +6 / -4 )

I can show you walls in the Kansas area approaching 3 meters plus-major killers in an earthquake!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

They need to improve and enforce the building codes that's the problem. The walls that fell over we're just resting on top of a concrete base. When I lived in LA we had to build a retaining wall next to my sisters house. The building code called for reinforcement bars vertically which also bent at a 90 degree angle at the base and were secured into a concrete floor so no way it was going to fall over

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Let's face it, shoddy building practices are pretty much the standard in Japan.

1 ( +7 / -6 )

I have always wondered the logic behind the fact that cinder block walls never have staggered joints in Japan. On the face of it i would say the walls lack strength if constructed that way and are prone to colapse. I have never seen it done that way anywhere else in the world. Perhaps there is some reason i am not aware of though ?

11 ( +12 / -1 )

kawabegawa

Let's face it, shoddy building practices are pretty much the standard in Japan.

Gross misstatement and incorrect. Japan has some of the highest earthquake regulations for buildings. There's a mansion block across the way which was built on a former college dormitory place. The buildings were cleared and the land is about 100m x 50m.

First they installed more than 50 steel piles measuring more than 50 cm in diameter and more than 50 meters in length. Then they installed very large earthquake absorbers made from reinforced concrete and steel and a very large piece of rubber. The five floor building was then built on those. I was very impressed with the work which took about two years to complete.

Different regulations at different times. The house we live in is a 100 year old tradition wood house which predates the latest earthquake regulations but nonetheless its built with huge timbers more than 50 cms thick and survived the Kobe Earthquake in 1994.

Considering the strength of the Osaka earthquake there was much less property damage. I have also seen earthquakes in Italy when I lived there and whole brick houses just collapse.

All parts of a school building should be made to the earthquake regulations. Here in Kobe many former schools have been replaced with safer ones.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

if not for the whining and whinging of those who live in the areas surrounding daycares, kindergartens & elementary schools most cinder block walls wouldn't even be necessary. they act as noise barriers in many cases because neighbors complain about the shouting, squealing and laughter of happy/excited school children emanating from the aforementioned places. there are a lot of people who cannot stand the excited laughter of a small child.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

So, let's shut the gate after the horse has killed a few people, shall we? While it's all well and good to see them addressing this issue, if the walls are found to be sub-standard, who is going to pay for the repairs and how long will it take? Furthermore, will there be any penalties for non-compliance? Australia has very strict building codes for each region due to cyclones and all structures, including signs and walls must meet these standards. There are very hefty penalties for not complying with the building codes. The whole of Japan is an active earthquake fault, but it's only recently they have introduced stricter building codes for houses, apartments, etc. It's a shame a little girl had to be killed for them to address block walls as well.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Given the magnitude of the earthquake and its shallow depth, I was surprised there wasn't more damage.

This is not meant to downplay the individual tragedies that did occur, only to suggest that the low number of them is proof that standards are much better than in the past.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

There is quite a long painted wall next to a highschool in Juso, Osaka where the Hankyu train passes. Wonder if they will check that one too. In Japan, they just paint things over so that it seems fixed.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Zichi, some of the primary schools in Ibaraki went through an earthquake strengthen program a couple of years back.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Tabitha Mori

Zichi, some of the primary schools in Ibaraki went through an earthquake strengthen program a couple of years back.

Important for the safety of the students but also because they are evacuation centers too.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

After every major disaster, the 1994 Kobe earthquake and the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami the regulations are reviewed and if necessary updated but only applies to new builds.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

These are public buildings, and by law, they are supposed to be checked annually.

Exactly. Although many new high-rise buildings are well designed for earthquakes, most new houses are basically made of cardboard. Quality is kept low to maintain profit margins for the builders, but the owners rarely understand just how poor quality their house it (for a while). Old low-standing buildings are usually very slow to be renovated (if at all) both cosmetically and structurally.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I'm not a builder, but when I first saw the wall on the news, it screamed shoddy workmanship. The blocks are stacked on top of each other, not staggered so their position is zigzagged. And the reinforcing is way too short.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I think the collapsed wall which killed the young student was only to block the view of the school swimming pool, which could have also have been achieved with a corrugated plastic or metal wall. The wall was an after thought, in addition to the original one. The builders must be gutted to.

most new houses are basically made of cardboard

Even modern build homes are required to meet the earthquake regulations. All wood joints also have additional steel plates to strengthen those joints. There's now more use made of diagonals.

All homeowners can request an earthquake inspection and report from their city authority. We have one for the 100 year old house we live in.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Looking at the photographs of the wall, it would appear that the upper half of the wall was added at a later date, probably to prevent dirty old men from looking at the children in their bathing costumes while they are swimming. As a result, the steel reinforcement was very shallow where the old and new walls joined. On the right side, you can see that there is a chain-link fence and originally this probably ran along the road side too.

Regarding the fact that in Japan the blocks are not staggered, this is because of the steel reinforcing. If the rods are very tall, it is impossible to lift blocks over the top, and therefore the reinforcing runs up between the joints.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The horse has bolted

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@ ozxie - ditto on the staggered joints, or lack there of. I'm not an engineer but it's just looks stronger and I'm pretty sure it is

0 ( +1 / -1 )

To all commentators complaining about the blocks not being staggered: the wall fell in one piece, staggering wouldn't have made any difference at all! As mentioned above, steel rods are inserted vertical and horizontal between the blocks, which would be very cumbersome with staggered ones. These walls are not load-bearing (except maybe people leaning against them), only to block view and sound. Vertical rods embedded into the concrete below the walls are supposed to bear the side forces, but this wall's rods were too short, meaning they couldn't adequately be connected with the horizontal rods inside the wall.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Seawolf,

Good point about the blocks. You seem far more knowledgeable than I on the subject.

What could have been done to make the wall safer? It's not like earthquakes are rare here.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Cinder blocks are cheap. People can’t afford expensive professionally built walls. I built a wall, complete with metal rods, but it fell over during the last typhoon. I guess if you live in japan you can only do your best, but the reality, a more stable fence is not going to stand against volcanoes, massive earthquakes, landslides and tsunamis.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@ ReformedBasher/Goddlucktoyou

The safest is to grow a hedge.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Cinder blocks are cheap. People can’t afford expensive professionally built walls. I built a wall, complete with metal rods, but it fell over during the last typhoon. I guess if you live in japan you can only do your best, but the reality, a more stable fence is not going to stand against volcanoes, massive earthquakes, landslides and tsunamis.

And if your wall had crushed someone, I guess you'd just say shouganai? Not knowing how to build a wall or not having the funds to do so properly are fine excuses ... if the wall is facing a vacant lot or wooden area. If it's next to a street frequently used by pedestrians it's a hazard and whether or not you're legally responsible you're sure as heck morally culpable.

And the latter part of your comment is totally disingenuous--a more stable properly constructed wall will do just fine against an extremely violent EQ and it sure would have withstood that quake the other day. I can't build my house to withstand a crashing helicopter but I sure as hell can make sure my roof isn't going fall atop the many children who pass right underneath my window everyday.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@ReformedBasher

There were no buttresses (控え壁) to provide support. The reinforcements were fine, so the wall held together. But it still toppled.

Horribly unlucky. RIP.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This problem was addressed 40 years ago? Buttressed cinder block walls was recommended or in the code. As I walk my dog around our area I've noticed no such thing. In fact I'm taking a wide berth around a few as now I'm aware of there danger I've noticed vertically they are well off centre. Perhaps some sort of penalty system could be considered or permits with inspectors initiated. See what happens in the next 40 years.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Jcapan. I understand your point. Any structure that may cause harm to people walking by must be made safe. Btw.My wall is in my back garden with only snakes around it.

After the Fukushima disaster I travelled on a couple of occasions from Sendai to Moriyama by both coast and inland. I had to stop and cry for a while. Both earthquke and tsunami damage was extensive. No amount of structural soundness would of stopped most of what I witnessesed.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Goodluck, fair enough.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

After the fact yet again. Surprised they haven't said the usual, we didn't expect an earthquake that large.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@lucabrasi

No, the reinforcements were not fine, the top half of the wall and the bottom half of the wall were obviously built separately and you can see that only about 10 cm of steel reinforcement had been inserted into the bottom half.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Hope her parents sue someone's derriere off.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

The preventative measures Japan sometimes takes are quite poor. They can do better

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Kitty

You’re right : )

I stand corrected.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@ seawolf = don't the cinderblocks have 2 x holes ? If so can't the vertical reinforcement rods pass though blocks even if the joints are staggered ?

I've seen these walls fall down before and it's always along a vertical mortar line. If the joints were staggered that would never happen.

I've never seen any horizontal reinforcement rods on those walls in Japan

0 ( +0 / -0 )

How about a quick order to check the common sense of the morons in government, local and national, while we're at it, because anyone with an ounce of it knows these things are not safe... and yet again we have to wait for deaths to occur before they pretend to take it seriously. And I already know what the result will be. The government will check, deem a "surprising" 80% more or so of such walls unsafe, then expect local governments to suddenly fix the problem, while local governments will wait for instructions on how and the money for it. Then we'll wait for the next deaths before they move beyond lip-service.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The wall failed on a number of construction principles (as others noted).

The Stack Bond method is totally inappropriate for a wall over a metre+ and in those cases needs to be iron joint reinforced securely imbedded into the base / foundation.

In addition buttressing is essential over a certain height.This stack method is usually used in many countries as a decorative look, but here it is ubiquitous. It is often the easiest, quickest, cheapest way of connstructing a wall.

By staggering bricks - for example in an English Garden Wall method - half and full bricks are used to give a lateral spread of the load.

In this tragic case the local / prefectural govt failed in it's supervision of public works. The construction company failed by doing it on the cheap. And routine inspections over the decades failed to notice the inadequacies of the design and build.

Sad all round.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Explanation of the collapsed school wall

Damage found in school walls across Osaka Pref., including one that crushed student

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20180620/p2a/00m/0na/007000c#cxrecs_s

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Regardless of opinions... It was a good call by the government.

Hope that it will prevent further injuries and damages.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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