Times 2

30 children wait for their parents in tsunami-hit Ishinomaki

Even amid the carnage and despair of Japan's tsunami victims, the plight of the 30 children at Kama Elementary School is heartbreaking. They sit quietly in the corner of a third-floor classroom where they have waited each day since the tsunami swept into the town of Ishinomaki for their parents to collect them. So far, no one has come and few at the school now believe they will.

Teachers think that some of the boys and girls, aged between eight and 12, know their fathers and mothers are among the missing and will never again turn up at the gates of the school on the eastern outskirts of the town, but they are saying nothing.

Instead, they wait patiently reading books or playing card games watched over by relatives and teachers, who prevent anyone from speaking to them. Officials fear that even the sound of the door sliding back might raise false hope that a parent has come to collect them. Their silence is in marked contrast to other children playing in the corridors of the four-storey building, whose parents survived due to a complete fluke.

Two children rest on a rail track as they head to their relative's house with their parents for evacuation, in Ishinomaki

Sports teacher Masami Hoshi said: 'The tsunami came just when the parents of the middle age group were starting to arrive to collect their children so we managed to get them inside and to safety.

'The younger ones had left with their parents a little earlier. The ones who went to homes behind the school probably survived, the ones who went the other way probably didn't.'

The school, where children's paintings still line the walls, has no running water, electricity or heating but is home to 657 people living among corridors and rooms filled by mud and debris. It is a mile from the sea wall that was meant to protect Ishinomaki.

When the tsunami struck, 160,000 people were living in the town, which is about 50 miles north-east of Sendai. So far 425 have been confirmed dead with another 1,693, including the parents of the 30 pupils, listed as missing.

The terrible toll of Japan's double disaster became clearer as it emerged as many as 25,000 people could be dead after Ishinomaki officials confirmed that 10,000 of their citizens were missing. The estimated 10,000 people missing in Ishinamaki is the same figure given as in the town of Minamisanriku, also in Miyagi state, which lost around half its population when it was razed to the ground by the 20 foot high wall of water.

So far the official death tool has hit 5,692 with another 9,522 people missing, according to The National Police Agency. But there were very real fears that the statistics were a terrible underestimate of those who perished in the tsunami.

Across the country some 434,000 people have been made homeless and are living in shelters.
Ken Joseph, an associate professor at Chiba University, is in Ishinomaki with the Japan Emergency Team.

He told the Evening Standard: 'I think the death toll is going to be closer to 100,000 than 10,000.
'Why is there no food? I have been to every disaster zone in the last 20 years and I have never seen anything remotely like this. I think we're on the brink of chaos.'

He said the Prime Minister was 'a wonderful man in many ways' but indecisive as a leader: 'In his press conference on the nuclear reactor, he looked like he was going to cry, like a man having a nervous breakdown.

'Where is the sense of urgency? We need somebody to take charge. We've had an earthquake followed by fire, then a tsunami, then radiation, and now snow. It's everything. 'There is nothing left. The world needs to step in. Where are the Americans? The Japanese are too proud to ask, but we need help and we need it now.'

© Daily Mail, London

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