Students evacuated from quake-hit Noto Peninsula returning home

Junior high school students from quake-hit Wajima City who were evacuated to another part of Ishikawa Prefecture are returning home after their two-month stay.

A send-off ceremony was held on Thursday in Hakusan City. Some 250 students had relocated there after a massive earthquake struck the Noto Peninsula on New Year's Day.

About 60 first-year students of Wajima Junior High School continued their classes at Hakurei elementary and junior high schools in Hakusan City. They are returning home on Friday as their school is set to reopen from April.

Student council president Tsuji Yushin of Hakurei Junior High School said in a speech that the students may face difficulties when they return to Wajima, but he encouraged them to persevere and not be discouraged.

The students sang in chorus, expressing their feelings of encouragement and gratitude.

Wajima Junior High School principal Nagaso Masahiko said the students and teachers had lived in fear and anxiety since the quake. He said their school has become an evacuation center and they could not study or continue their club activities. Nagaso thanked the Hakurei schools, saying he is grateful to everyone for offering their help.

The students exchanged fist bumps as they left the ceremony.

Kawabata Toki will go to school from his grandparents' home after he returns to Wajima, as his house was damaged in the quake. He said he can finally return to Wajima and wants to spend time with his family.

The Wajima Junior High School says some students will transfer to schools outside the city as their families are still living in shelters.

Nitta Yui, who will be attending a school in Kanazawa City, says she cannot return yet as her home was damaged and isolated in the quake. She said she feels sad about going to a different school, but connecting with her friends online will help keep her spirits up.

Thirty-eight first- and second-year students from two junior high schools in Suzu City also returned from evacuation in Kanazawa.