Nearly 40 percent of the 56 elementary and junior high schools in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, hardest hit by the March 11 disaster, did not specify evacuation areas in their disaster-prevention manuals, an Asahi Shimbun survey found.
Of the 21 tsunami-damaged schools in the three prefectures that failed to provide adequate information on evacuation destinations, 11 had their students remain in the school buildings after the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake.
The Asahi Shimbun asked officials at the 56 municipal schools--20 in Iwate Prefecture, 31 in Miyagi Prefecture and five in Fukushima Prefecture--whose first or higher floors were inundated if they had specified an evacuation area and where they took their students to on March 11.
Twenty-one schools--five in Iwate Prefecture, 15 in Miyagi Prefecture and one in Fukushima Prefecture--said they had not clearly indicated evacuation areas for their students. Eleven of the 21, all in Miyagi Prefecture, sent students to higher floors of the school building, the rooftop, or the gym when the tsunami struck.
These schools assumed that the higher floors would be safe from a tsunami. The school buildings, in fact, had been designated "evacuation centers" if a tsunami were to hit the area.
At Okawa Elementary School in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, 74 children died or went missing after being caught in the tsunami while evacuating.
Thirty-five schools--15 in Iwate, 16 in Miyagi and four in Fukushima--had specified evacuation areas in their guidelines. Twenty-two of them evacuated their students to higher ground, while seven took them to a higher floor or the roof of the building.
Two schools sent students to the roof after judging that the higher ground designated in the manual would be too difficult to reach.
Togura Junior High School in Minami-Sanriku, Iwate Prefecture, had designated the building as an evacuation destination. However, with school officials worried about damage to the building by the magnitude-9.0 quake, the students were taken to the school grounds instead. The tsunami struck while the students were there. As teachers ushered the students to safety, one girl died after being caught up in the wave.
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