Volcanic Island’s Residents Take Refuge in Emergency Centers With AM-Japan-Volcano, Bjt
TOKYO (AP) _ Hundreds of refugees from an erupting volcano on Oshima island listened anxiously Saturday to loudspeakers at the Minato Ward Sports Center in Tokyo, hoping for word on friends and relatives separated in the flight to safety.
Emiko Matsushima, 24, said she left Oshima with her husband and 5-month-old daughter, but was separated from her parents and two younger sisters when boarding the rescue boats.
″I’m very worried, and want to find and talk to them soon,″ she said. Her baby rested on her back as she hurriedly checked lists of names of evacuees.
The government overnight evacuated more than 11,000 people from the 35- square-mile island about 70 miles south of Tokyo after Mount Mihara erupted violently Friday and lava streamed toward the main town. Only police, firefighters and volcano experts remained.
Almost 2,000 of the evacuees were taken to the Minato Ward Sports Center in downtown Tokyo.
The Japan Broadcasting Corp. said 60 evacuation centers had been set up in Tokyo and Ito city on Izu Peninsula. It said about 150 people had been seen by doctors, but did not specify why.
The were no reports of serious injuries directly related to the eruption, but police said one elderly man died of a heart attack while being taken to a rescue vessel.
Many evacuees at the Tokyo center tried Saturday to telephone relatives and friends to tell them they were safe.
Yutaka and Tami Ishikawa said they were split from their 36-year-old son, who stayed behind to help the island fire department.
″He sent a message saying be careful when you leave,″ Mrs. Ishikawa said. ″I feel very worried about him. I just hope that at least the house remains standing.″
Towels and blankets were handed out to the refugees, and dozens of officials and volunteers passed out lunch boxes brought in by the truckload.
One center official estimated it would be a week to 10 days before the evacuees could return home.
While some waited outside the building, scanning the crowds, others were fast asleep inside the gymnasium after their overnight boat trip. The officials said more evacuees would be able to move from the gymnasium to more comfortable rooms as people moved out to stay with friends and relatives.