Osaka gov’t warns of baseless rumors on social media after quake

The Osaka prefectural government on Tuesday urged people not to share groundless information on social media after rumors fanning fears about foreigners spread in the wake of a deadly earthquake that rocked the region on Monday.

“False information, such as news about an accident that never happened, is posted and widely shared on social media. Be aware of sources and confirm whether the information is reliable,” the Osaka prefectural government said on its website.

Among the rumors were Twitter posts saying foreigners in Japan will start robbing convenience stores and others warning of possible terror attacks by foreigners following the quake.

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Aside from provocative tweets about foreigners, another tweet posted news of a train derailment that never happened, and still another claimed that a zebra was on the loose. A photo attached to the latter unsubstantiated tweet is thought to have been copied from an old online news page.

Posts also appeared that were critical of such claims, but had the effect of further fanning the rumors by passing on the tweets. Some online users urged Twitter Japan and other social media operators to eliminate posts that are transparently false.

Rumor-mongering on social media was also seen in the wake of major earthquakes in Kumamoto Prefecture, southwestern Japan, in April 2016.

In one instance, a tweet claiming a lion had escaped from a local zoo went viral. A 20-year-old man who posted the tweet was subsequently arrested for obstructing the zoo’s business.

Water, gas supplies still cut

Meanwhile, water and gas supplies remained disrupted in northern Osaka Prefecture. A smaller earthquake occurred in the same area in the early hours of Tuesday and dozens more minor tremblors have been registered by the Japan Meteorological Agency, while many spent a sleepless night at evacuation centers set up within the western Japanese prefecture.

The number of evacuees stood at around 1,700 as of 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, according to the Osaka prefectural government.

With the continued seismic activity and heavy rainfall expected in western Japan through Wednesday, the agency has for the first time sent its emergency task force, established this May, to the affected areas to prevent secondary damage and help recovery efforts.

Water supplies continued to be cut off in parts of the cities of Takatsuki and Minoo, prompting local authorities to dispatch water tank trucks.

Some 112,000 households in the cities of Takatsuki, Ibaraki, Settsu and Suita were without gas as of Tuesday morning. Osaka Gas Co said supply is expected to be restored at all affected households by next Monday.

While authorities reported Monday that the quake had killed three people in their 80s and a 9-year-old girl, police said Tuesday that an 81-year-old woman in Takatsuki who had been listed as among the three is now believed to have died from an illness.

A total of 334 houses have been damaged by the quake, according to a tally by the central government. Of these, 265 were in Osaka Prefecture, 64 in Kyoto Prefecture, three in Nara Prefecture and two in Hyogo Prefecture.

Disaster management minister Hachiro Okonogi said he will lead a survey team to the area to assess the extent of the damage.

© KYODO

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