Failure to take prompt action blamed

The massing of thousands of police to crack down on the Aum Shinri Kyo sect two days after the nerve gas attack in Tokyo is unlikely to stem criticism that the authorities have again failed to react decisively to disaster.

After the Kobe earthquake two months ago, in which 5,500 people died, the Japanese military and foreign rescue teams remained idle while bureaucrats dithered. It was claimed that many of the deaths occurred because Japan's famous instinct for consensus meant that no one was prepared to take charge. Now it appears that the same problem prevented action being taken against the sect, despite evidence dating back two years that it was producing poison gas.

Since Monday, the newspapers have reminded the nation that the police have yet to arrest anyone in connection with the deaths of at least seven people in a mysterious nerve-gas poisoning last year in the town of Matsumoto. And arrests have still to be made in an incident that occurred 12 days later, when people living near an Aum Shinri Kyo commune at Kamiku-Isshiki, on the slopes of Mount Fuji were sickened by fumes that fitted the same pattern. Traces of a nerve gas by-product were found near by.

More questions have been raised about why police failed to do more after 10 passengers on a train in Yokohama fell ill earlier this month from mysterious fumes, and cases emitting vapour were found in several Tokyo stations last week.

Even yesterday, police refused to confirm that raids they had carried out were anything to do with Monday's gas attack, saying they were investigating the disappearance of a lawyer allegedly kidnapped by the cult.

The growing frustration was reflected by residents near one of the cult's centres in Tokyo. "If they had done something two years ago, this might not have been necessary," said Yoshio Ito. Several of his neighbours were taken to hospital because of pungent fumes coming from the sect's property. Aum Shinri Kyo said the fumes were caused by the burning perfume and other materials, and promised to be more careful. Police were unable to search the building. "All they did was tell us to let them know if we saw anything suspicious," Mr Ito said.

This week's events,have shaken the ingrained belief of the Japanese that theirs is the world's safest society. The Asahi Shimbun newspaper lamented that Japan is on the verge of losing its most precious asset - the ability to maintain social order. "While it is hard to build a safe society, it is very easy to destroy it.It is hoped the police will solve the case as swiftly as possible."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron appeal to the audience during the Question Time special
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living