Blast occurs one day before shabu shabu restaurant’s grand reopening, claims worker’s life.

On April 23, with coronavirus infections in Japan on the rise, the Shin Sakura-dori branch of shabu shabu hot pot chain Onyasai (pictured above) in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, decided to temporarily shut down. Hoping to make the best out of a bad situation, the franchise owner decided to take advantage of not having any customers in the restaurant by using the time for various renovations, which started on July 23.

Things were progressing smoothly, and it looked like the restaurant would meet its planned reopening date of July 31. However, shortly before 9 o’clock on the morning of July 30 local residents heard a thunderous sound and felt a violent shaking, as an explosion occurred at the Onyasai branch.

This was no small incident, either. In the image of the aftermath below, the building marked with a red circle isn’t the restaurant, but a house nearby. The remains of the Onyasai branch are actually in the bottom left corner of the image, where the twisted from of the exploded building, which no longer has any of its walls or roof, can be seen.

The blast was so strong that windows were reported broken on buildings as far as 370 meters (1,213 feet) away. The video below, in which portions of homes are sent falling into the street from the shock wave, was recorded 50 meters (164 feet) from the restaurant.

In addition to 19 people suffering injuries, the workman who was inside the building at the time, 50-year-old Hiroshi Furukawa, died in the blast.

When an explosion occurs in situations like this, some sort of gas-related issue is the most common explanation. However, Furukawa, whose employer described him as a highly skilled model employee, wasn’t doing any work related to Onyasai’s gas systems. Instead his projects involved a deep cleaning of the interior walls, replacing the flooring, and installing new electrical outlets.

It’s that last task that investigators think might have caused the problem. On the night prior to the explosion, workers from a different contractor had come in and replaced many of the gas ranges in the restaurant’s kitchens with new induction models, which was also why Furukawa was going to be installing new electrical outlets on the day of the explosion. In searching the blast site, investigators found six propane containers that had been inside the building, three of which had broken valves when recovered.

Because of this, the most likely scenario is that the canisters were damaged during the previous day’s work, then leaked gas throughout the night after the range installation crew left at around 8:30 p.m. Furukawa arrived at the restaurant the next morning at about 8:10 a.m. and phoned the office to check in, and with the explosion occurring less than an hour later, it seems as though after setting up and starting the electrical work a spark occurred and ignited the gas.

Sources: NHK News Web, Asahi Shimbun Digital
Top image: Google
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!