Many children survived because they remained at the schools and took shelter on the top floors and on higher grounds. In fact, all the student at nine schools that were flooded survived.
In the city of Minamisoma, Fukushima prefecture, ten school children were lost after being released to their parents and then being caught in the tsunami, even though the school authorities had warned them that they shouldn’t go near the sea.
In Shichi-machi, at Chouritsu Elementary, Fukushima prefecture, a brother and sister left the school while the tsunami warning was being broadcast and were also lost.
At Togura Junior High School, one student fell while leaving school, and the tsunami pulled him away.
In the city of Ishinomaki at Kamasho Elementary, 22 children died after they were handed over to their guardians. An official from the school said there was no broadcast warning them of the tsunami. The children were going home when the tidal wave hit them.
At another school that did receive warnings, 74 children were swept away by the tsunami because teachers were discussing evacuation plans for 40 minutes on the playground of their elementary school in the city of Okawa Ishinomaki in Miyagi prefecture.
The problem is that there is no clear disaster policy, according to the Ministry of Education. Letting parents take children from the school during a disaster was a procedure established mainly for elementary schools.
“It is necessary to do a thorough study of appropriate times for releasing children to their parents,” according to the ministry. “The last time it was discussed was in 1996, and no conclusions were reached.”
Professor Marumitsu Murosaki of Kansai Gakuin University, referring to the City Disaster Prevention Study, told the Mainichi, “The deaths of these children occurred because there was no clear policy in the three prefectures.”
After reviewing the disaster response policies of the schools, it is crucial to immediately devise a standard disaster policy, noted the Ministry of Education.