Raleigh students remain far from quake epicenter

Student with host family in Hiroshima

March 14, 2011 4:55:12 PM PDT
Parents of eight Exploris Middle School students say their children are safe and far away from the devastation in Japan.

The students, along with a principal and a teacher, were headed to Tokyo, Japan Friday when Japan experienced an 8.9 earthquake and catastrophic tsunami. Their flight was diverted to Osaka.

The parents say there is no need to worry because the children are far from the east coast of Honshu, which was hardest hit.

Kim Demartz told ABC11 Eyewitness News that she is anxious but thankful that her son is safe. She heard from her son, Zach, for the first time Monday morning.

"He is happy and in good spirits and safe and sound and everything there is normal," Demartz said.

Jennifer and Paul Prestifilippo's twin daughters are also on the trip. Thanks to technology, like video chat, they have been in constant contact.

"She's having a ball and she reassured me that her sister is as well," Jennifer Prestifilippo said.

Both parents are keeping a close eye on the latest developments in Japan but say they're confident their children are safe and they're glad the trip is continuing as planned.

"They're safe where they are, and we really don't feel like there's any eminent risk for them to be there," Demartz said.

"They're about a thousand kilometers away from the earthquake and nuclear power plants that are melting right now," Paul Prestifilippo added.

All of the students are in Hiroshima staying with their host families.

"I think we all felt that once they were in Hiroshima with their host families that they'd be very well taken care of," Jennifer Prestifilippo said.

The Pristifilippos received a photo of their daughter Lauren and her host family via e-mail Monday afternoon.

"She said that they were at school on Monday and did their lessons as planned," Jennifer explained. "Everything I think at this point is as we hoped it would be, on schedule."

The students and teacher are expected back home Saturday and parents are anxiously awaiting their arrival.

Demartz said she is grateful her son had the opportunity.

"I gotta admit I can't wait, and I think I probably won't sleep well until they're back," Jennifer said.

The students are learning Japanese while attending school in Hiroshima. As a part of the program, they're also helping the Japanese students learn English.

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