TOKYO, June 18, (AP): Residents in western Japan were cleaning up debris Monday evening after a powerful earthquake hit the area around Osaka, the country’s second-largest city, killing four people and injuring hundreds while knocking over walls and setting off fires.
The magnitude 6.1 earthquake that struck the area early Monday damaged buildings and left many homes without water or gas. The quake also grounded flights in and out of Osaka and paralyzed traffic and commuter trains most of the day. By evening, bullet trains and some local trains had resumed operation, and stations were swollen with commuters trying to get home, many of them waiting in long lines. An exodus of commuters who chose to walk home filled sidewalks and bridges. Some commuters took refuge in nearby shelters instead of going home.
NHK public television showed dozens of men wearing ties and carrying briefcases sitting on gym mats at a junior high school gymnasium in Ibaraki city, where some families also gathered. A concrete wall at an elementary school in Takatsuki fell onto the street, killing 9-year-old Rina Miyake as she walked to the school. NHK showed the collapsed upper half of the high wall, which was painted cheerfully with fl owers, trees and blue sky and surrounded the school swimming pool. Mayor Takeshi Hamada apologized over her death because of the wall’s collapse.
The city acknowledged that the wall did not meet building safety codes. The structure was old and made of concrete blocks — a known risk in earthquakes. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga ordered the Education Ministry to conduct nationwide safety checks of concrete block structures at public schools. More than 1,000 schools were closed in Osaka and nearby prefectures, Kyodo News reported. Wall cracks and other minor damage were found at several schools. A man in his 80s died in the collapse of a concrete wall in Osaka city. An 85-year-old man in nearby Ibaraki died after a bookcase fell on top of him at home, according to the disaster management agency.
The Fire and Disaster Management Agency said 307 people were treated for injuries at hospitals. Most of the injured were in Osaka. Osaka officials did not give details, but the injuries reported in Kyoto and three other neighboring prefectures were all minor. The quake struck shortly before 8 am north of Osaka at a depth of about 13 kilometers (8 miles), the Japan Meteorological Agency said. The strongest shaking was north of Osaka, but the quake rattled large parts of western Japan, including Kyoto, the agency said.