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Japan Orders Eviction of Thousands From Unsound High-Rises


A widening scandal in Japan is shaking the building industry to its foundation. Government officials say dozens of high-rise structures in the capital and elsewhere may have to be razed because they do not meet earthquake safety standards. The safety records of the condominium and hotel towers were falsified and that officials are warning most of the structures might not survive a moderately strong tremor.

Japan's government on Wednesday said that people living in condominiums deemed unsafe will have to leave the buildings by mid-December. Several hotels have already been closed and guests told to find rooms elsewhere.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe calls the situation very regrettable but says the safety of those living in the buildings is the government's top priority.

Mr. Abe says the government is preparing 2200 living quarters, mostly in public housing complexes, for the displaced.

The scandal began in October, when a building inspection company found that a prominent architect had falsified safety data on several buildings to cut costs.

Now there are criminal investigations under way and contractors, architects and local governments are pointing fingers at each other.

Japan's Construction Ministry says no entity is free of blame, including itself.

Legislative hearings began Tuesday with developers called to testify. They denied conspiring with an architect to fake data in residential buildings and hotels.

Japan is one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries, and most Japanese have trusted that the government and the country's builders took construction safety codes very seriously. Building standards were made even more rigid after a quake in the city of Kobe 10 years ago killed more than 6,000 people.

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