SEOUL, South Korea -- The deaths of 74 elementary school students and 10 teachers in a small Japanese coastal town were among the nation's most poignant losses in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
Since then, parents of the dead children at the Okawa primary school have found little closure. Many demand to know why school officials did not do more to protect students, especially in a nation where strict school disaster drills are common.
On Sunday, after more than 10 months of silence, board of education officials publicly admitted responsibility for the deaths, which came after the earthquake struck on that March afternoon, and was followed by a powerful tsunami less than a half-hour later.
At a meeting attended by more than 80 parents, school officials acknowledged problems with the school's evacuation measures and apologized over the lack of guidance given to their children during the chaotic moments as the disaster unfolded.
For months, school principal Kashiba Teruyuki has refused to speak publicly about the deaths. But at the meeting, in which board members presented results of a study into actions by teachers and other officials, Teruyuki, who was away from the school when the disaster struck, took the blame for the deaths that had emotionally divided the provincial city about 220 miles north of Tokyo.
"I should have prepared an adequate disaster manual and raised awareness among teachers about the level of danger," Teruyuki said.
Thirty-four students who survived the disaster attend classes at another site.