Quake-hit City Plans Group Evacuation of Junior High School Students to Other City

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Rescue operations continue in Wajima, Ishikawa Prefecture, on Jan. 3.

The city government of Wajima, Ishikawa Prefecture, which was hit hard by the Noto Peninsula Earthquake, is planning a group evacuation of about 400 students from three junior high schools in the city. The parents and guardians of more than 200 students have expressed their desire for the children’s relocation.

According to the city’s board of education, all three schools are currently being used as shelters for people affected by the massive Jan. 1 earthquake, making it difficult to conduct classes inside the school buildings.

As soon as preparations are made, the students will move to two prefectural facilities in Hakusan, located about 100 kilometers south of Wajima, and live apart from their parents or guardians. The period of evacuation is anticipated to be up to two months through March.

The group evacuation will only be carried out for students whose parents or guardians have given consent. The board of education surveyed the intentions of parents and guardians via a communication app from Wednesday to Friday. The results are still being checked, but according to sources, parents and guardians of at least 200 students have responded in favor of their child being evacuated. As some have not yet responded to the survey, the number of the students who wish to move may increase. There were also about 50 responses not in favor of the evacuation.

The plan is for students to relocate to two prefectural facilities for youths — the Hakusanroku Shonen Shizen no Ie and the Hakusan Seinen no Ie — with school staff members accompanying them. The board is considering whether to hold classes at the facilities or have students attend nearby junior high schools.

“We have given much thought to securing places for the students to learn and live,” said Tadashi Ogawa, the superintendent of the board of education.

The board is also looking into possible learning options for students who will remain in the city.

The city government has forgone the idea of a group evacuation of about 700 elementary school students out of consideration for the possible psychological effects of being separated from their parents.

The municipalities of Suzu and Noto in the prefecture are also considering such group evacuations and are conducting surveys to determine those who want their children to move.

On Friday, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry announced a plan to evacuate a total of more than 400 residents from facilities for the elderly and disabled in four cities and towns in the prefecture, including Wajima. The residents would move to medical facilities and such in the three prefectures of Ishikawa, Toyama and Aichi. The number of such evacuees is expected to increase if disruptions in lifeline services continue, such as power and water outages.

The Disaster Medical Assistance Team has already started evacuating residents from elderly care facilities, and about 200 people had been relocated as of Thursday. Aichi Prefecture has accepted a total of 30 such people at 12 medical institutions in the prefecture.

“Those who are in stable condition will be moved to elderly care facilities in the prefecture,” said an official from the Aichi prefectural government’s medical affairs division.