Monday 19 February 2018

Irish teacher led schoolchildren to safety

Edel Kennedy

AN Irish woman teaching in one of the cities devastated in Japan's earthquake helped save hundreds of children by leading them on to the school roof and away from the rising water.

Siobhan Bell (23) is living in Sendai in Japan, one of the areas which has been hardest hit thanks to its proximity to the epicentre of Friday's earthquake.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, her mother Mary Jo revealed Siobhan was without water, food and power for the last number of days as the emergency services struggle to cope with the disaster.

Mrs Bell, from Killiney in Dublin, said Siobhan was able to send them an email saying "I am safe" shortly after the earthquake struck the coastal city.

But contact since then has been sporadic because of power outages and they have been able to have just one proper phone conversation, where Siobhan recounted the frightening experience.

"She was in school when it struck and the entire school was flooded," said Mrs Bell.

"The teachers had to lead the children up on to the roof and they had to spend the entire night there.

"She could see the water swirling around, places on fire, and it was freezing up on the roof because it was snowing," she said.

"A helicopter dropped some food but all she had that day was one cup of rice and a chocolate sweet.

"We know she's alive but she had very little food and water. She sent us a message and said she had found an egg and she was going to soak some noodles in cold water and have the egg with it."

Mrs Bell said Siobhan was lucky because her apartment wasn't flooded -- but there is no power apart from a generator at the school and no way of leaving the area.

"It's a nightmare," Siobhan's father Eamonn said.

"We just want her to get some food and water."

The Irish embassy in Japan last night confirmed that the Ambassador, John Neary, had travelled to Sendai by road and had made contact with Siobhan and other Irish citizens living in the area.

They had been provided with food and water and were offered help to leave the area.

Irish Independent

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