Five years ago, in the northern part of Osaka Prefecture, a tremor with a seismic intensity of less than 5 was observed, and the block wall of an elementary school collapsed, killing a female child who was trapped underneath. After the earthquake, local governments in Osaka Prefecture inspected block walls on the routes to and from elementary and junior high schools, and while about 6,8800 were deemed "dangerous," NHK found that only about 1% of them had confirmed measures such as removal.

In the June 2018 earthquake that occurred in northern Osaka Prefecture, a block wall installed at an elementary school collapsed in Takatsuki City, where a violent tremor with a seismic intensity of less than 6 was observed, and a fourth-grade elementary school girl who was on her way to school died after falling underneath.

Five years before the earthquake, we interviewed all 5 municipalities in Osaka Prefecture about the current state of safety measures for block fences on the way to and from elementary and junior high schools, and found that inspections by local governments after the earthquake showed that approximately 43,8800 block walls were considered "dangerous" because they were higher than the standards stipulated by laws and regulations or were tilted.

However, among the block walls that were considered "dangerous," about 1100,1 places have been confirmed to have been removed and other measures, which is just over 4% of the total.

About 1,2200 sites, or one-quarter of the total, had no countermeasures, and the remaining 5500,<> or so had no local governments knowing whether measures had been taken.

According to each local government, many of the block walls on school routes are installed on private land such as houses, and it is difficult to proceed with measures unless the owner has the intention to remove them.

In some cases, the route of the school route was changed because the situation did not change.

Professor Emeritus Masayoshi Mochi of Tohoku Institute of Technology, who is familiar with disaster prevention measures for block walls, said, "Owners need to be aware of the dangers, and local governments need to face block walls facing public spaces steadily rather than just saying that they cannot be dealt with because they are personal property." He said that it is important to devise ways to reduce the cost of removal.

Current status of measures in Takatsuki City About 25 places have not taken measures

In Takatsuki City, an inspection after the earthquake five years ago identified about 5 block walls on school routes as dangerous, but about 90 of them remain unaddressed.

All of these are privately owned, and the city is urging them to be removed, but they say they are not proceeding as expected because the danger is not sufficiently communicated and the cost of removal is high.

On the other hand, in order to reduce the financial burden, 25 cities and towns in Osaka Prefecture, including Takatsuki City, have established a system to subsidize the cost of removing dangerous block walls.

In the case of Takatsuki City, block walls with a height of 19 cm or more facing roads and parks are eligible, and the subsidy amount is 80,1 yen per square meter, up to a maximum of 1 million yen.

On the route to school where many children pass, city officials are continuing to visit houses one by one and call for their removal.

At a house with a block wall about 3000.300 meters high, which I visited on the 1th of this month, the person in charge explained the subsidy system and necessary procedures while complaining about the danger of collapsing.

The male resident said that he was not aware of the danger, and after listening to the explanation of the person in charge, he replied, "We will consider removing it."

Takatsuki City established the subsidy system the month after the earthquake, and 1 applications were received for the four years and eight months ending up in March this year.

Kazukatsu Nagimura of the Takatsuki City Examination and Guidance Division, who is in charge of this system, said, "Block walls are personal property, so if the owner does not fully understand the dangers, it will be difficult to make progress with countermeasures. I was talking.

The man who removed the block wall of his home

Takao Maekawa, 92, used a subsidy system from Takatsuki City to remove the block wall of his home last July.

Mr. Maekawa's house was built about 7 years ago, and there used to be a two-meter-high block wall facing the road.

This road is used as a commute route for a nearby elementary school, and after the earthquake five years ago, we did emergency work to fix the block wall to the wall of our home.

Even so, every time he saw children passing by his house, he felt anxious, so last year he decided to remove it.

What pushed Mr. Maekawa was the words his son and daughter had told him, "Block walls have collapsed here and there in the earthquake, and if you leave it alone, you will regret it for the rest of your life."

The removal cost was more than 50,2 yen, but by using the city's subsidy system, the co-payment was reduced to more than 5,36 yen.

However, it took more than 3 million yen to install a fence in place of the removed block wall, and since it was not eligible for subsidies, I had to pay for it myself.

Mr. Maekawa said, "I always thought that we had to deal with it as soon as possible, but it would cost a lot of money to install a fence in addition to removing it, so I couldn't do it.

"Protect yourself" Teaching children Takatsuki City

While the removal of dangerous block walls on school routes has not progressed, Takatsuki City is instructing children so that they can protect themselves in the event of an earthquake.

of them is an initiative using the "School District Safety Map" created for each elementary school.

This map is distributed to all children, and when children and their parents leave school together for handover drills, they are asked to check and write down places where there is a risk of accidents and dangerous block walls, and complete the map.

The aim is to be aware of dangerous places on a daily basis so that children can ensure their safety in case of emergency.

On the 1th of this month, a sixth-grade girl attending Shiba Elementary School was looking at a map with her mother on her way home from school to check dangerous places.

One of the children said, "When an earthquake occurs, I am afraid that the electric lights installed on the block walls and telephone poles will fall.

This kind of instruction is also given in regular classes.

In the class on the 5th of this month to think about what to do in the event of an earthquake, a unique teaching material called "Takatsuki Safety Note" was used.

This teaching material was created to help students learn the knowledge they need to protect themselves from disasters and traffic accidents in the wake of the earthquake five years ago.

It is also introduced using illustrations that when an earthquake occurs, the block wall cracks and there is a risk of collapse.

There are lower grades, upper grades, and junior high school students in elementary school, and they are distributed to all children and students in the city. Wakana Ikeda, a teacher at Shiba Elementary School, said, "I would like to create many opportunities for children to think together with children in advance so that they can decide what actions to take to protect themselves in an emergency."

Expert: "Local governments persistently take measures"

Professor Emeritus Masayoshi Mochichi of Tohoku Institute of Technology, who is familiar with disaster prevention measures for block walls, said, "Even if a block wall is owned by an individual, one side faces a public space, and if someone falls under it, lives will be lost. It is important for local governments to persistently continue to work on countermeasures.

In order to promote countermeasures, it is also important to have owners change their mindset, saying, "Some owners may think that it is just a fence, but if the fence collapses and causes damage, we should recognize that we may be held responsible. If there is a problem, I would like you to take proper measures."

On top of that, he pointed out that it is also important to reduce the cost of removal that the owner bears, for example, to remove only part of the top and replace it with a lighter aluminum fence instead of removing the entire block wall, and to continue the system in which local governments subsidize the cost of removal for a long time.

8% of dangerous block walls on school grounds have been removed.

While measures on school routes have not progressed, 8% of schools in Osaka Prefecture have completed the removal of dangerous block walls on school grounds.

The day after the earthquake struck five years ago, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) issued a notice to prefectural governments nationwide to inspect the safety of block walls on the premises of elementary and junior high schools.

NHK interviewed all municipalities in Osaka Prefecture to investigate the situation of block walls in schools, and found that block walls on the premises of about 5 elementary and junior high schools were considered "dangerous" at that time.

When asked about the status of measures taken after that, about 760 schools, which are about 8% of the schools that had block walls that were considered "dangerous," had completed their removal.

While some other schools have already been scheduled for construction, in some cases it takes longer to be removed, such as the time it takes to coordinate with the owner of adjacent land.