We will NEVER forget this accident.
Even time flies, we must remember it.




PHOTO TAKEN IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE ACCIDENT.

It was Saturday morning at around 8 o'clock, February 10, 1996 that a huge rock broke away from the mountainside and shattered part of the 1,086-meter-long Toyohama Tunnel at the middle point between towns of Furubira and Yoichi on National Highway 229, and a 40-meter stretch of the tunnel gave way near one exit, cutting the highway that runs along the Sea of Japan.

Unfortunately, a commuter bus departing at 7:05 am from Yobetsu for Otaru and a passenger car were involved in this accident, and 20 people were trapped and killed.

Rescue workers tried hard to blast away the giant rock but only to find one victim dead at 158 hours later, on February 16, and the rest of the trapped were also found dead by the evening of February 17.

It was a great shock to hear and see this tragedy. I would like to extend my deepest condolence to the families who lost their precious persons.

In June, the collapsed tunnel remains unrepaired because investigation of the accident is not completed. So people still cannot use Toyohama Tunnel: Instead, people use the narrow and old Toyohama Tunnel next to the new but collapsed one by one way only alternately for both ways controlled by signals.

Also this accident exposed other issues to think such as too much time spent for the rescue, inappropriate reporting made by news media, risk management capability, and the prediction of potential risk hidden in roads by the authorities.

Do you think the roads you use everyday to go to your school or office, and travel for business are REALLY safe?

Please reconfirm SAFETY... so that we will see no more tragic accidents.



SIGNATURE COLLECTING CAMPAIGN


After the accident, aiming at protecting lives of local residents, Furubira 21, a group for exchanging information between different businesses (represented by Mr. Takayoshi Kaga), started a campaign to collect signatures of people who desire the restoration of their lifeline --SAFE, National Highway 229. With people's strong cooperation, it resulted in 14,273 signatures totally, including 3,807 signatures of Furubira residents.

On May 16, 1996, the group submitted the signatures to Furubira Mayor. On June 4, the Mayor and the group visited Tokyo to see Construction Minister Mr. Nakao and Mr. Hashimoto, chief of the Road Service Bureau in the Ministry of Construction. The group petitioned them for early realization of their requests. Also they handed on their requests with signatures directly to Director General of the Hokkaido Development Agency, Mr. Okabe.



WALKING ALONG OLD ROADS


A=National Highway 229 
B=Setakamui Tunnel 
C=Site of the Cave-in 
D=Border Line Between Towns of Yoichi and Furubira 
E=Old site of Toyohama Mine 
F=Old Yoichi Mountain Trail 
G=Toyohama Tonnel 
H=Takinoma Tunnel 
I=Old National Highway 229 
J=The Sea of Japan

Furubira 21 felt a new route should be discussed separately from Toyohama Tunnel, which became famous for its dangerous image. On June 23, 17 members of the group tried to walk through an old road, old Yoichi Sando, which had been used before 1963 until Toyohama Tunnel was open.

This old road starts from the entrance of its Furubira side of Setakamui Tunnel for southern mountainside, to the towns of Yoichi and Toyohama through the mountain whose elevation is 250 m. A length of the road is 8.1 km in total. The current situation of the road shows the following: narrow width allows only one car to pass at a time, but only 1.5 km can be entered by a four‐wheel drive car; after that, winding slopes are continued, and at some points we had to cut our way through grass and bushes higher than our shoulders by hands. We found two parts of slopes were fallen down.

Considering that this road was not used for 38 years, we could walk more easily than expected.

After about 2 hours' walk, we reached the old site of Toyohama mine. With a car, it takes only three or four minutes between Toyohama and Setakamui Tunnel. Again, we feel strongly that this road is very important for our daily lives.

We decided to keep discussing some alternative routes in the future.



IS THERE ANY ALTERNATIVE ROUTE?


It was reported the Hokkaido Government started to find any alternative route for Toyohama Tunnel according to the newspaper dated June 25, 1996.

Based on the news, I promptly sent an e-mail to its suggestion box which collects opinions from residents in Hokkaido through computer networks such as NIFTY-Serve, PC-VAN, etc. I proposed a request for further information on the report. The Government replied on July 3, and the below is an extract:

Quote// At inland area of Yoichi, Furubira, and Shakotan, there are several types of roads where cars can pass through: prefectural, municipal, forest, and agricultural roads. In addition, there are mountain trails and old national highways used till about 1955, and also trails created naturally after people made their way through a thicket. However, the current situation of such old roads which are mostly unused now is unclear. So the government has decided to conduct an investigation to prepare documents to grasp their overall conditions. Then, based on the investigation results, we are considering to discuss promptly if the roads are passable, and if there are any possible measures to make them passable as roadways. //Unquote

The above answer seems very promising to me. I would like to do my best to promote realization of this alternative route with a help from everybody.



STATUS AS OF AUGUST 10, 1996


This report showed the status of August 10, 1996 after a half year passed from the accident.

Some unstable rocks near the site were dropped down in August, and tentative repair of the tunnel is planned using the construction methods of steel-frame and expanded polystyrene, aiming at its reopening within the year.

A method for permanent restoration seems to be formally determined within the year after investigating safety of the current tentative tunnel, including possibility of a detour.

On the other hand, regarding a new road in Shakotan Peninsula, originally planned to open last summer or fall, there are several unsafe areas and no specific plan to open them yet. It may delay in next year.

The road was opened on November 1.

Compared with the last year, sight-seeing guests to Shakotan in summer was reduced about 40% by traffic. Early restoration and the formal declaration of safety are desired.



FINAL RESULTS BY INVESTIGATION COMMITTEE FOR THE ACCIDENT


Hokkaido Development Bureau set up a committee to investigate causes of the accident, and on September 14, the committee submitted the final results (the sixth) to the bureau.

It says that scientifically it was impossible to observe the cracks inducing the accident and predict its risk that the huge rock was fallen down. It also says the excavation of the tunnel had very small possibility to cause the accident. Therefore, the final report did not refer to the responsibility of the bureau.

Officials commented that the bureau will announce its opinion as soon as possible after reviewing the final report from the committee.

From now, the bureau would like to move up to the next steps such as compensation to the bereaved families, a selection of the permanent route, an erection of the monument, and putting recommendations into practice, which was suggested in the final report to avoid another accident.

According to some reports by the press, the Hokkaido Development Bureau took the lead by itself in preparing the final report and it left a question in its selection process of the investigation committee members.

Hokkaido Police Department proceeded the investigation independently to pursue criminal liability, but it would take quite a time.

The above was written based on some newspaper reports.



NEW ROUTE FOR THE TUNNEL


According to some industrial newspapers, the Hokkaido Development Bureau was reported to determine its direction for a new tunnel as it will start excavation next year aiming at its opening four years later.

The new tunnel will use the half of Toyohama Tunnel (Yoichi side -- opposite side of the accident occurred) for some hundreds meters, then be excavated into mountainside without passing through Setakamui Tunnel as shown in the map of "Walking Along the Old Roads", connecting to Furubira, National Highway 229.

I don't know if this is the final route or not, but this is for your information purpose.



STATUS AS OF OCTOBER 13, 1996.





This is Toyohama Tunnel as of October 13, 1996. It is still restricted for one-way passage controlled by signal, and construction is going on in order to restore it as the condition before the accident.



Left view of the tunnel.


This view shows how the construction is underway from the left. The steel frame in the back shows the spot crashed by the huge rock.




TOYOHAMA TUNNEL WILL REOPEN ON DECEMBER 11.


According to Hokkaido Development Bureau's announcement, the tunnel will reopen on December 11, as it originally scheduled its opening within the year.



THE LAST MEMORIAL SERVICE HELD AT THE SITE


A group of the accident bereaved (The 210 group, which was named after the date of the accident, February 10) will hold the last memorial service at the site of the accident on December 10, 1996.

The tentative repair of the tunnel is scheduled to finish and it will become passable on December 11. Therefore, the group decided to advance the date from February 10, 1997 to December 10.

I will use the tunnel everyday and run over the site. I'm sure it will make the bereaved so sad.



TENTATIVE REPAIR HAS BEEN FINISHED.


At 6:30 am, December 11, Toyohama Tunnel has finished its tentative repair, and become passable again.

Ten months have passed since the day of the accident.

A few cars were reported to pass through the tunnel with blowing their horns. Every local resident is driving through the spot with a mixed feeling.

I hear Hokkaido Development Bureau will decide the route for a permanent use, and it is reported that the possible candidate is the new route written in "New Route for the Tunnel". I would like to express my strong desire for SAFE roads.


Because only you can build roads and we just drive on them!



THE PERMANENT ROUTE HAS BEEN DECIDED.


On December 17, Hokkaido Development Bureau has announced the new route, which is similar to the route written in "New Route for the Tunnel".

The new route is designed by excavating a new tunnel at the mountainside divided from the tentative Toyohama Tunnel, and connecting to Setakamui Tunnel, which is the next tunnel of the Toyohama in Furubira direction. The total length of the tunnel will be 1.2 km.

This route is almost the same as the bereaved desire strongly and scheduled to complete within four years.

However, I think one more alternative route is necessary. A response to my question through the suggestion box of the Hokkaido Government says it is still under review. It may be a long-term plan, but I would like to request its realization strongly.



CAN HOKKAIDO POLICE ACCUSE HOKKAIDO DEVELOPMENT BUREAU OF CRIMINAL LIABILITY?


On December 29, a written statement of an expert opinion at the request of Hokkaido Police Department has been submitted to the investigation headquarters.

The contents of the statement was not opened to public, but Hokkaido Police seems to make a judgment if Hokkaido Development Bureau can be impeached for negligence judging from all the information including the statement, documentation submitted by the bureau, and what police heard from the local residents.

But the final decision will not be expected soon.

A wife who lost her husband by the accident came to my store today. I remember her lonely words, "This year I need to prepare the special dishes for the new year only for myself...".



HOKKAIDO POLICE HAS DECIDED TO CHARGE HOKKAIDO DEVELOPMENT BUREAU WITH CRIMINAL LIABILITY.


On February 7, 1997, Hokkaido Police Department has decided to charge Hokkaido Development Bureau with criminal liability for the bureau did not take any appropriate measures by neglecting falling rocks occurred several times near the site before the accident.



ONE YEAR AFTER THE ACCIDENT


One year has passed since the cave-in of Toyohama Tunnel on February 10, 1996. The victimsユ families are holding memorial services on the first anniversary of their family members.

Many cars of the press are observed here and there in Furubira, which reminds me of the accident one year ago.

Today, we can pass through the tunnel as before, and our lives of Furubira residents are back to normal.

Who should be blamed for this accident? What should we do as users of this lifeline road?

At the first anniversary, now I am trying to think about it again.




Do you think your roads are safe?

Never forget this accident!

So that your dearest persons will never meet such accidents.




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