June 13, 2018
Ginowan, Okinawa Pref.- Pupils of an elementary school in Okinawa Prefecture have taken shelter indoors about 500 times to avoid approaching U.S. military aircraft over the six months since a U.S. helicopter window fell onto its schoolyard.
On Dec. 13, 2017, the 7.7-kilogram window dropped from the CH-53E large transport helicopter, based in the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma air base in the Okinawa city of Ginowan, onto the schoolyard located next to the military facility.
The school suspended use of the schoolyard for about two months to secure safety. Despite an agreement between the Defense Ministry and the U.S. forces in Japan to avoid aircraft flights over any school as much as possible, two U.S. military aircraft flights have been confirmed since the incident.
In January this year, the ministry's Okinawa Defense Bureau installed four monitoring cameras and placed five guards at the school in response to a request from the school.
The guards call to children over a loudspeaker to go into the school building when any U.S. military aircraft approaches. Shelters will also be set up on the schoolyard.
According to the bureau, pupils of the school took shelter indoors 488 times between February, when the use of the schoolyard resumed, and the end of May. On one day in March, they fled 23 times.
"We can't go on like this," Principal Osamu Tobaru said. "We're wondering when we'll be able to resume ordinary life, but we also need to take the worries of parents into consideration."
Pupils complain as physical education classes are interrupted every time they take shelter, according to Tobaru.
"It would be best if U.S. military aircraft stop flying, but they never do so. Taking shelter is necessary as I want children to attend classes in a safe environment," said Tatsumi Goya, who has two children at the school. Jiji Press
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