This is heartbreaking:
But the atmosphere in the room on the third floor, where 30 children whose parents simply disappeared when the tsunami swept through the town, is very different. Viewed through the window, the children sit more still and are apparently engrossed in books or card games. They are watched over by other relatives or teachers and we are not allowed to enter or speak with them. Understandably, they do not want their charges to have more reminders of the disaster that has befallen them.
Masami Hoshi was the sports teacher at the school but, since the Japanese tsunami, has been trying to get enough food for the 657 people living in the four-storey school building and locate missing students and their parents. He has achieved that with a handful, but these 30 are still alone. “The tsunami came just when the parents of the middle classes were arriving to collect their children, so we managed to get them inside and to safety,” Hoshi told The Daily Telegraph. “The younger ones had left with their parents a little earlier,” he said. “The ones who went to homes behind the school probably survived. Those who went that way” – he points across a playground coated with grey mud towards a main road littered with cars, electricity pylons and shattered glass – “probably didn’t make it.”
Even though the school is a mile away from the sea wall that was meant to protect Ishinomaki, the wall of water raced across the playground and into the ground floor of the building. A clear line on the wall shows just how high it reached. It is chest-high on an adult and above the heads of most of the pupils here. “Some of the parents were sucked back out across the playground when the waters receded so we grabbed fire hoses and threw them out and dragged them all back in,” said Hoshi.
The school has no electricity, heating or running water. Hoshi is waiting for food to be delivered and has no idea how long that might take. Children’s pictures are still on the walls and show images of mountains, animals and a boat on the ocean. A middle-aged woman keeps up a constant – but hear-hopeless – effort to sweep the corridors of congealed mud and debris. Futons and clothing is dried over the railings of the upper storeys of the school.
Nearly 163,000 people are listed as residents of Ishinomaki and so far 425 have been confirmed as dead with another 1,693 missing. It may take many weeks to discover the fate of these children’s parents and brothers and sisters, if they are ever found at all.
Please help the victims of this humanitarian crisis by donating through one of these organizations:
Red Cross: Visit or text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 from your phone.
Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund
International Medical Corps
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)
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