Okinawa Building Shelters to Protect Children From Objects Falling From US Aircraft
The Okinawa government is building outdoor shelters for schoolchildren to protect them from faulty U.S. Marine helicopters. Multiple times now Okinawa schoolchildren have been endangered when random metal shrapnel from US military helicopters fell onto school grounds as they flew overhead. The Okinawa government is, therefore, constructing outdoor shelters to protect schoolchildren from any more accidents.
Repeated US Military Equipment Failures Put Children at Risk in Okinawa
In November last year, a large panel fell off a US Air Force F-35A aircraft 65 miles east of Okinawa. Then on December 7, a metal object fell from a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter flying overhead and landed on the roof of a Japanese nursery school.
A week later in December, a three-foot by three-foot window fell off a Super Stallion helicopter as it passed over Futenma Daini Elementary School and fell into the school playground. One of the over 50 schoolchildren playing at the school’s playground sustained minor injuries.
Since the incident, policy at the school has been to shelter children inside school buildings whenever US military aircraft were nearby. The Okinawa Times reported between February and March the school evacuated children 200 times.
The U.S. military has claimed it takes such accidents seriously and is investigating the cause of the incidents. However, it appears the Okinawa government is not confident the US Marines are taking the hazards seriously enough and so they are building outdoor shelters to protect children when planes or helicopters fly overhead.
Masashi Katsuren, an Okinawa Defense Bureau spokesman, revealed to the media that the government will be constructing four emergency shelters for schoolchildren, two at playgrounds and two at other locations. One will be at the Futenma Daini Elementary School.
Vice-principal at Futenma Daini, Kenji Arakawa, expressed satisfaction with the prospect of a shelter at his school. It is expected that constructing the shelters will be completed before the students return from summer break.
“We are somewhat relieved that with two shelters in the playground, we can shorten the evacuation time and resume the physical education class quickly,” Kenji Arakawa said to Stars and Stripes.
US Military Unwelcome on Okinawa
Falling objects from the sky haven’t been the only cause of problems between US Marines and Okinawa locals. A US military officer was convicted for drunk driving and killing a 61-year-old Japanese in March. In May, another US military personnel hit and killed a 45-year-old Japanese motorcyclist. Yet in early June, another US Marine drove and killed a 63-year-old individual sleeping by the roadside. The authorities ruled that alcohol was not involved in the other two incidents.
In December of 2017, a US soldier was found guilty of the rape and murder of a 20-year-old Okinawan woman in 2016 which also sparked outrage among locals.
Okinawa is home to 32 US military bases despite being only 70 miles long and seven miles wide. For decades locals have protested the US military presence and are currently protesting the construction of a 33rd military base on Okinawa in Henoko Bay. The bay is home to 262 endangered animals species and a spectacular coral reef that rivals Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.