Latest Usu eruption cancels residents’ trips home

Kyodo

Mount Usu in southwestern Hokkaido erupted again Monday, causing police to close roads and authorities to stop evacuated residents from visiting their homes.

The police closed key roads in the town of Abuta near the volcano, including National Route 37.

The fresh eruption came as experts reported continuing volcanic activity at the 732-meter Mount Usu, with five craters on the western and northwestern side of the rumbling volcano spewing black smoke.

In a news conference held at Date city office earlier in the day, Mitsuhiro Nakagawa, a Hokkaido University professor, said he had observed from a helicopter that craters on the western side are the most active.

According to previous observations, the western side of the volcano has been showing signs of a possible explosive eruption.

Nakagawa also confirmed that plumes of black smoke have been rising since Sunday in the form of cauliflower-shaped clouds caused by underground magma explosions.

He added that experts are monitoring falling levels of underground water that have so far been restraining violent magma activity.

Meanwhile, some 400 people staying at nine schools and other emergency shelters in Date since being evacuated from their communities near the mountain were integrated into three locations within the city early Monday to allow schools being used as shelters to resume classes.

At Date’s cultural center, one of the evacuation facilities, relocated evacuees began arriving at 8:30 a.m. on bicycles and in Self-Defense Forces vehicles.

Satomi Yamaga, 41, a resident of the Toya Lake hot-spring district in Abuta, expressed anxiety at having to move for the fifth time after settling into the center. “I wish they’d let me go home even for 30 minutes,” she said.

Her frustration was echoed by Seiko Shimazaki, 62, who hails from the same district and was being moved for the sixth time. “What is most painful is that everything seems so unpredictable,” she said.

Hokkaido’s Education Agency announced Monday that classes that have been disrupted by the volcano’s eruption will resume.

Seven of the city’s high schools and schools for the handicapped will hold opening ceremonies for the school year on Friday while entrance ceremonies marking the start of classes will be held from Friday to Monday, agency officials said.

Abuta High School, which has been closed by authorities, will use three separate locations, including a public facility in Toyoura town.

Mount Usu has been spewing ash, steam and smoke since erupting March 31 for the first time in nearly 23 years.