SENDAI – The city of Ishinomaki in Miyagi Prefecture has decided to preserve the building in an elementary school where 74 children and 10 staff died in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster, sources close to the matter said Friday.
Despite opposition from some bereaved families, Ishinomaki Mayor Hiroshi Kameyama wants to save the former Okawa Elementary School building as a tribute to the victims, the sources said.
Residents in the disaster-hit Tohoku region remain divided on the conservation of facilities engulfed by tsunami on March 11, 2011, which left 18,000 people dead or unaccounted for and triggered the world’s worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl crisis.
The city government is also planning to conserve another building previously used by the Kadonowaki Elementary School, which was closed and merged into another school, according to the sources.
The number of victims at Okawa Elementary School was the largest among all the schools struck by the disaster.
The city government estimates that the cost of repairing the building for preservation will be about ¥150 million. If the city does not open the building to the public, its annual maintenance cost will be ¥11 million.
According to a survey conducted by the city last year, more than half of the residents in the district where the school is located were in favor of demolishing the building, while more than half of the surveyed residents of Ishinomaki were in favor of preserving it.
“Once destroyed, it would be irrevocable and there would be nothing to discuss. I want (the city government) to discuss with local residents how best to preserve it,” said Kazutaka Sato, 49, who lost his 12-year-old son at the school.