The Asahi Shimbun

By SHIGEKO SEGAWA

Asahi, Dec 20, 2011
A university research team is asking the government to take steps to ensure student safety, after finding that 225 schools are likely to lie on active faults, with 780 other schools located close to such rifts.

Based on the results, the team has started further investigations using aerial photographs and other means to pinpoint locations of all schools nationwide and active faults.

“We hope the heads of schools located on active faults and administrative officials in charge will consider banning use of school buildings on such rifts,” said Takashi Nakata, professor emeritus of geography at Hiroshima University, who led the study, along with Takashi Kumamoto, associate professor of geographic information at Okayama University.

The original research, conducted in 2003, examined the geographic locations of active faults and school buildings of all 43,360 schools nationwide–including elementary, junior high and high schools, as well as universities–listed as educational facilities on the map issued by the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan, a government geographic agency under the land ministry.

The results showed 1,005 schools were situated within 200 meters from active faults, and of the 1,005 schools, 571 schools located within 50 meters from such rifts.

Many of the schools on or in proximity to active faults were concentrated in the Keihanshin region, an area that covers Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe, with a number of active underground faults running.

On fault lines, even buildings reinforced with earthquake-resistant technology could collapse due to sudden changes in elevation on the ground surface, as well as horizontal movement, caused by an earthquake.

When a major earthquake hit Taiwan in 1999, schools on the active fault that had triggered the quake were severely damaged, along with a well-built dam that was breached.

The team looked at plans to relocate schools to higher ground in the tsunami-stricken areas following the Great East Japan Earthquake. The group, believing that similar action is needed as a safety measure, is probing deeper into the locations of active faults and schools, in light of the results of new fault research as well as the recent consolidation of schools because of declining enrollment due to the lower birthrate.

The group plans to list schools in danger using aerial photographs made public and digital technologies, and will notify listed schools and their municipalities in hopes of such information contributing to disaster prevention and community development.

By SHIGEKO SEGAWA