First Islanders Visit Homes after Volcanic Eruption
TOKYO (AP) _ The first group of refugees from Oshima island returned today to check on abandoned houses and hungry pets, almost two weeks after a volcanic eruption forced them to flee.
Some 772 people were allowed their first half-day visit home since Mount Mihara sent molten lava flowing toward residential areas on Nov. 21, said Tadashi Kurata of the Oshima Town Office.
The eruption forced more than 11,000 people to escape to the mainland, where many evacuees have been camping out in gymnasiums and emergency shelters with only a few hastily collected belongings.
Today’s ferry trip to the island 69 miles south of Tokyo came after the city’s government decided to let one person per household make a short visit to check on their homes and farms as long as the 2,486-foot volcano remained quiet.
Kurata said the islanders were warned not to use electricity or gas and not to drink water for fear of volcanic contamination.
On Tuesday, Central Meteorological Agency officials said visible signs of volcanic activity seemed to have ceased, but they stressed the need to keep watching it.
Kurata said seven patrol boats from the Maritime Safety Agency and the Self Defense Force, as well as five helicopters, were standing by at Oshima in case of emergency.
A second group of islanders plan to make the half-day visit Sunday, he added.