Thursday, March 31, 2011

A hairbreadth escape from tsunami--35 children raised their handmade flag at the makeshift graduation

Akahama Elementary School in Otsuchicho of Iwate Prefecture held a graduation ceremony on March 29.  When the earthquake hit the town, 35 students of the school had fled to higher ground with the assistance of their teachers and parents and had a narrow escape from the tsunami. On Graduation Day, the children with a bright smile on their face headed in debris and rubble to the school’s gymnasium which is now used as a makeshift shelter and where the ceremony was held.
The children were at school when the earthquake struck. Hirofumi Iwakiri, the Vice Principal of Akahama Elementary School, tried to announce the evacuation over the school’s public address system, but the system broke down. Immediately he rushed around all four classrooms in the two-storied building and urged the students to flee to the schoolyard. The schoolyard is 150 meters away from the ocean but tsunami was the furthest thing from his mind.
A student's father, who had come to help children evacuate from the school building, shouted “Run,” when Mr. Iwakiri was on the way to the gymnasium. At that very moment, he saw huge tsunami leaping over the coastal levees in front of him. The children ran up a narrow street by the front gate of the school to higher ground. Principal Keiko Sasaki ran knee-deep in water behind all the others. The father who had urged Mr. Iwakiri to run was engulfed by tsunami, but he scrambled on a floating car and fled the tsunami from roof to roof.
(By Asahi Shimbun, March 29, 2011

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