• Kyodo

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Japanese students in central Taiwan left in the cold when their school was destroyed in an earthquake in 1999, marked the completion of their new school Friday, thanking those who made the $6 million project possible.

“Now the time has come for us to pay back the kindness that we received,” Teruyuki Fukuhara, principal of the Taichung Japanese School, told the audience, which included Japan’s top representative to Taiwan, Shintaro Yamashita, Japanese lawmakers and two government officials.

Fukuhara said he hopes the school will become a place where people from Taiwan and Japan “can meet with a smile on their faces” and can feel the warmth that the students received from benefactors from around the world in the wake of the massive quake that hit on Sept. 21, 1999.

The brand-new school complex sits amid paddy fields and banana plantations in Hsiushan, a village about 30 minutes’ drive from the central Taiwan city of Taichung.

The approximately 130 students moved into their new school, which boasts an athletics field, an outdoor swimming pool and a plaza where students can chat and play, on Feb. 12, following the graduation of junior high school students in January.

But school officials decided to postpone inauguration celebrations until Friday, the eve of Japan’s Children’s Day, to wait for weather warm enough to enjoy the school’s outdoor setting.

While 70 percent of the school’s building costs were shouldered by Japan, the remainder was donated by Japanese businesses and individuals in Taiwan.

Former Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui helped the school secure a long-term lease for its land, owned by state-run Taiwan Sugar Corp.

Reconstruction of the original school, which was damaged beyond repair by the magnitude 7.3 quake, was ruled out since the structure was found to be located on two fault lines.

No one was injured or killed in the school’s collapse, since the quake struck before dawn.

Construction of the new school started in April 2000, shortly after the students moved into a temporary prefabricated school complex on the same premises.

Directly after the quake, they found refuge in rented quarters at the Angel kindergarten near the original school. Representatives from the kindergarten and the Japanese community in central Taiwan also attended Friday’s celebrations.

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