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Highway guardrail sabotage suspected In numerous locations across Japan

Date Posted: 2005-06-17

Sharp metal objects are being discovered embedded in highway guardrails from one end of Japan to the other.

The National Policy Agency is stymied, saying it cannot determine how much of the problem is deliberate tampering compared with construction flaws in the guardrails themselves. A full investigation has been launched by the Ministry of Land and Transportation, together with the National Policy Agency.

The number of objects identified varies drastically between reporting agencies. A conservative number covers 27,000 locations in nine prefectures, but other officials say the number is far higher. One agency puts the number reported to date at 28,060, with sightings ranging from Hokkaido in the north to Okinawa.

Satoshi Iwamura, the vice minister of the Land, Infrastructure and Transportation Agency told reporters it is too early to say whether the protruding objects –some as much as 10cm long—are from construction flaws, or whether they were deliberately planted. “We will inspect all national roads across the country,” he said, “and keep in close contract with police.

Some prefectures are considering the metal slivers to be a danger, perhaps classified as assault, and are reporting each incident to police departments. Authorities have begun removing the objects as they find them.

On Okinawa, officials think many of the protrusions may be simply rusted reflection bars which are affixed to guardrails at turns. Still, they’re dangerous, and must be removed. At a mainland location, a junkyard operator told officials looking at a protrusion “this is a piece of car body.” “It looks like someone is doing it on purpose,” said another official.

Another junkyard vendor says “we don’t think it is just accidental pieces, “ noting the nationwide appearances make it likely the actions are deliberate.

In Okinawa, pieces have been found in Tamagusuku Ku, as well as at nine locations in Chinen and two in Yomitan. Officials have found single instances of metal piedes in Naha, Tomishiro, Kadena, Gushikami, 20 places in Chubu, and another 10 in Yayami. In Ishigaki Island, police found a car was scratched after coming near a guardrail.

A policeman said “It looks like someone is doing this on purpose, but for what, we don’t know.”

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