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Okinawa residents outraged that object from US military aircraft fell on school

Reporters, local assembly members and others gather outside Ginowan Municipal Futenma No. 2 Elementary School after hearing that an object believed to be from a U.S. military helicopter had fallen on the school grounds, in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, on Dec. 13, 2017. (Mainichi)
An object, center, appears to fall from a U.S. military helicopter in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, shortly after 10 a.m. on Dec. 13, 2017. (Photo courtesy of TBS Television via Ryukyu Broadcasting Corp.)

GINOWAN, Okinawa -- Less than a week after an object from a U.S. military aircraft allegedly fell onto the rooftop of a day care center here, another object, believed to be a window from a U.S. military aircraft, fell onto the playground of an elementary school on Dec. 13, underscoring the dangers of living close to military bases and angering local residents.

Tatsumi Goya, 42, has two children in the fourth and fifth grades at Ginowan Municipal Futenma No. 2. Elementary School, where the incident occurred, and rushed to the school upon hearing the news. "I can't stop shaking, I'm so anxious," he said. "The school's cordoned off with police tape so I can't get in. They say there's going to be an emergency gathering in the gym, but I don't have any details. It was just the other day that something fell on a day care center. This is inexcusable."

The window frame that fell from the CH-53 transport helicopter onto the elementary school grounds is seen at Ginowan Police Station at about 1 p.m. on Dec. 13 in this photo provided by the Ryukyu Shimpo newspaper.

Motonobu Nakamura, an 80-year-old resident of Ginowan who served as the school's principal for two years starting in 1996, said, "Again? Right after the incident with the day care center? How terrifying. This is dreadful. The Japanese government keeps on promoting the building of a replacement base for Futenma in Henoko at an early date, but the only solution is to remove all military bases (from Okinawa)."

Nakamura said no objects from military aircraft fell on the school grounds during his tenure at the school, but that whenever U.S. military helicopters and aircraft flew overhead, the students plugged their ears and cowered in fear.

"And now it's happened, as we'd thought it would," Nakamura continued. "The school can't even have physical education classes outside without worrying about the students' safety."

Takehiro Kamiya, 55, the head of Midorigaoka day care center, on whose roof a cylindrical object fell on Dec. 7 right after a U.S. military aircraft flew overhead, rushed to Futenma No. 2. Elementary School by car upon hearing about the incident. "It's outrageous that this has happened just a week or so after the incident at our day care center. As long as the Futenma air base exists, and as long as aircraft fly overhead, these incidents will continue to happen," he said.

"The Futenma air base exists within a residential area. Falling parts from aircraft put the lives of local residents at risk. And it has happened again. It makes me think that a sense of crisis regarding such incidents hasn't been widely shared within the U.S. military," said Okinawa International University professor Hiromori Maedomari, who is well-versed in the economics of military bases. "The U.S. military has ramped up its drills in preparation for a possible contingency on the Korean Peninsula. And because the workload of military personnel has increased, I get the sense that maintenance of aircraft has been put on the back burner. This state of affairs should be taken seriously, and the manner in which drills are carried out should be re-examined.

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