National / Politics

Okinawa elementary school where U.S. chopper window fell to get roofed facility on playground

Kyodo, JIJI

An Okinawa elementary school where safety concerns have grown due to U.S. military aircraft flying overhead is expected to get a roofed facility on its playground to protect students from falling objects, sources said Tuesday.

On Dec. 13, a window from a U.S. military CH-53E helicopter fell onto the grounds of the school just outside U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. Since the incident, the elementary school has since stopped using the playground, with the central government confirming that the U.S. has continued flying helicopters over the site.

Nobody was injured in the incident, but residents were shocked as the window, weighing 7.7 kilograms, landed only a dozen meters from where more than 50 children were taking physical education classes.

The Defense Ministry’s Okinawa Defense Bureau is discussing the plan to build the protective installation with the city of Ginowan’s board of education, according to the sources.

Details of the plan, including when the facility will be built, will be decided at a later date.

Parents who have been concerned about the safety of their children have been calling for the addition of such a facility.

To address safety concerns, the local defense bureau has placed surveillance cameras at the school and has officials monitoring U.S. military aircraft flying overhead.

An evacuation drill was conducted at the school Tuesday during a physical education class under the scenario of U.S. military aircraft flying over the site. The drill was carried out in the presence of teachers and officials of the local defense bureau, according to the education board.

The Futenma base sits in a crowded residential area of Ginowan, and the Japanese and U.S. governments have agreed to move the facility to the less populated Henoko coastal area of Nago, also in Okinawa.

But progress in the relocation plan has been slow, with Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga and many local residents hoping the Futenma base will be relocated outside the prefecture, which hosts the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan.

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