Photo/IllutrationPupils heading to school in Takatsuki, Osaka Prefecture, on June 20 avoid areas near walls. (Kazushige Kobayashi)

Publicly-run schools across Osaka Prefecture resumed normal classes June 20 as authorities focused on building codes and structurally unsound cinder-block walls that were responsible for at least one death in the big earthquake two days ago.

All schools reopened except for an elementary school where a concrete block wall collapsed, killing a 9-year-old girl, and a junior high school where cracks were found in the ground, caused by the magnitude-6.1 temblor of June 18.

Classes at public elementary and junior high schools in Ibaraki, Settsu and Takatsuki, cities in the northern part of the prefecture that bore the brunt of the earthquake, had been suspended since the temblor, which struck at 7:58 a.m.

But those in Ibaraki and Settsu have reopened.

In Takatsuki, all 59 schools resumed classes, except for Juei Elementary School where the fourth-grade pupil was crushed by the collapsed wall and the junior high school where safety remained a major concern.

The death toll from the temblor, which measured up to lower 6 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale of 7, rose to five on June 19.

The death of a 66-year-old man was confirmed in Takatsuki after he was discovered buried under books and other objects at his home earlier in the day.

Osaka prefectural police were investigating the site where the schoolgirl was killed, suspecting the incident constitutes a case of professional negligence resulting in death.

Takatsuki Mayor Takeshi Hamada admitted at a news conference late June 19 that the wall did not meet building standards and apologized for the breach.

“I take the city government’s responsibility very seriously and will do our best to determine the cause to prevent a recurrence,” he said.

The wall stood to a height of 3.5 meters. Cinder-blocks were used for the 1.6-meter top section, which crumpled as the girl was walking past.

According to an enforcement ordinance in the Building Standards Law, any wall exceeding a height of 1.2 meters must be reinforced by buttresses at certain intervals. The wall lacked such structural supports.

In addition, the wall topped the height restriction of 2.2 meters allowed by the law.

City officials said contractors carry out routine safety inspections of school buildings, including the wall in question, every three years.

During the news conference, they shared the findings of the latest checks of the school’s facilities, dating from January 2017.

But it was clear that city officials did not have a proper grasp of the contents.

The report listed 131 inspection items, each with categories such as “nothing pointed out” and “remedy required.”

The report also showed that the categories were marked by either “○” or “—.“

As for the collapsed wall, the entries concerning measures to bolster its quake resistance, deterioration and damage were all marked by “—.“

Reporters’ questions focused on what “—“ stands for, but city officials did not have a clear-cut answer.

“Contractors’ recollections were vague,” one official said.

Emergency inspections ordered after the earthquake found that the wall at Juei Elementary School was not the only one that lacks buttresses in Takatsuki. The problem extended to other schools in the city.

Five education ministry officials were dispatched to Juei Elementary School on June 19 to do an on-site survey. They spent about an hour scrutinizing parts of the wall still standing, as well as cracks in the foundations and cinder-block section lying on the road.

The ministry ordered an emergency inspection of cinder-block walls at all kindergartens, elementary and junior high schools nationwide.

Prefectural educational authorities reported that walls were found to be tilting or cracked at 37 of 181 prefectural-supported high schools and special needs schools.

According to the government’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency, the number of injured people was 408, with Osaka Prefecture having the lion's share at 344.

There were 37 injuries in Hyogo Prefecture; 17 in Kyoto Prefecture; four in Nara Prefecture; three in Shiga Prefecture; two in Mie Prefecture; and one in Tokushima Prefecture.

It said 303 homes were damaged in Osaka Prefecture; 206 in Kyoto Prefecture; three in Hyogo Prefecture; and three in Nara Prefecture, bringing the total to 515.

A slew of aftershocks have rattled the Kansai region since the earthquake struck.

Authorities said 29 temblors were recorded by 10 a.m. on June 18, registering 1 to 4 on Japan's intensity scale.