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Students at school near US base in Okinawa forced to evacuate 455 times in first term

A U.S. Air Force CV-22 Osprey flies over Futenma No. 2 Elementary School as students play baseball in the playground in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, on July 26, 2018. (Mainichi)

GINOWAN, Okinawa -- Students at an elementary school here, where a window from a U.S. military chopper flying overhead fell onto the playground last year, were forced to evacuate a total of 455 times due to approaching U.S. military aircraft in the first semester of this academic year, according to a survey by the Defense Ministry's Okinawa Defense Bureau.

After the Futenma No. 2 Elementary School, located next to U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, resumed full use of the playground on Feb. 13, the Okinawa Defense Bureau placed guards on the playground to instruct students and staff to take shelter inside the school when there was a risk of aircraft flying overhead.

According to the Okinawa Defense Bureau and other sources, students who were using the playground were forced to evacuate 455 times during the first semester, which ran from April 9 to July 20 with 71 school days.

In total, students have evacuated 671 times in 2018, which includes 216 times from Feb. 13, when the school resumed full use of the playground, to March 23, the final day of the last school year.

In response to demands from the elementary school's PTA and others to address the issue, the Okinawa Defense Bureau has been building a roofed 20-square-meter shelter that is 2.3 meters high on the playground where students will take shelter from approaching aircraft from the second semester.

(Japanese original by Hiroshi Higa, Kyushu News Department)

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