Photo/IllutrationChildren of Kaneyama Elementary School, which was flooded during Typhoon No. 19, resume classes at Marumori Elementary School in Marumori, Miyagi Prefecture, on Oct. 23. (Kotaro Ebara)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

Cries of joy rang out in typhoon-hit Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures on Oct. 23, when children were reunited with familiar faces even in unfamiliar environments.

Elementary and junior high schools in the two prefectures resumed classes after being closed due to damage from Typhoon No. 19 on Oct. 12 and 13. However, signs of the destruction remain, and students at severely damaged schools were forced to use other schools in their neighborhood for their lessons.

In Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, children cheered in the morning after Shigemasa Ochiri, the principal of the municipal Nagamori Elementary School, told them, “Let’s all work hard for a fresh start.”

The school building was flooded from an overflowing river during the storm. The cleanup and repairs at the school with 298 students are expected to continue until the year-end.

The children on Oct. 23 boarded school buses and headed to four elementary and junior high schools in Koriyama to resume their lessons. Students in the same grade were not split up.

The first- and second-graders were taken to Midorigaoka No. 1 Elementary School, about 8 kilometers away.

Kaiki Munakata, a first-grade pupil of Nagamori Elementary School, said he was happy to get together with his classmates again even though their reunion was at a different school.

“It’s fun to play with my friends again after such a long time,” he said.

Ochiri said he was relieved to see the children in such good spirits. The typhoon had seriously disrupted their daily lives by dumping torrential rain on eastern Japan and causing widespread flooding and landslides.

“It must be inconvenient for children to be dispersed and take lessons like this,” the principal said. “I will pay more attention to the children than usual.”

In Fukushima Prefecture, 115 public-supported elementary, junior high and high schools were suspended at one point. But all of them are expected to have resumed lessons by Oct. 24.

In the town of Marumori in neighboring Miyagi Prefecture, all eight elementary schools and one junior high school reopened on Oct. 23.

Ten people in the town were killed in the typhoon.

Pupils at Kaneyama Elementary School resumed their classes at Marumori Elementary School. They were greeted with warm words of welcome on a large banner.

Floodwater reached a depth of more than 1 meter at Kaneyama Elementary School, which has 28 pupils enrolled.

Fourth- and fifth-graders of the school appeared elated when they met their friends for the first time since the disaster.

Nozomi Sakuma, their homeroom teacher, said to the children, “It is still tough to overcome these difficulties, but I am relieved to see you again.”

Rinka Sato, a fifth-grader, said she was a bit nervous because it was her first visit to Marumori Elementary School.

Marumori school officials prepared four classrooms and a separate room for teachers from Kaneyama Elementary School.

But pupils of Marumori Elementary School were also affected by the typhoon. Some of the children saw their homes flooded and their relatives killed.

“We want to give top priority to caring for children who have had traumatic experiences,” said Ken Sugawara, vice principal of the school.

(This article was written by Masahito Iinuma, Hirokazu Misaki and Chihiro Ara.)