1.4 billion yen set aside to monitor Usu

The government decided Friday to disburse about 1.38 billion yen to cover the cost of emergency measures for monitoring the volcanic activity of Mount Usu in southwestern Hokkaido.

The expenditure, agreed at a regular Cabinet meeting Friday, will double existing supplies of equipment and facilities to monitor the 732-meter volcano by mid-May, government officials said.

With the expenditure, 15 receiving devices for a global positioning system will be set up by the Meteorological Agency while another six devices will be placed by the Geographical Survey Institute on the western faces of Mount Nishizan and Mount Kompira, which are part of Mount Usu, to monitor the movement of underground magma to predict crustal deformation, according to the officials.

The number of seismometers and rain gauges in the area will also be increased, the officials said.

The Hokkaido Prefectural Government said the same day that the eruption of Mount Usu could cost the local agricultural industry in the city of Date and the towns of Sobetsu and Abuta around 354 million yen by March next year.

The local government also said damage totaling 74 million yen has been conformed to date. In addition to that total, it had confirmed as of April 17 damage of 27 million yen to vegetables which had already been planted in the fields and damage of 3 million yen each to the flowers and ornamental plants, and livestock industries.

Damage totaled 41 million yen for farming facilities and irrigation canals that had been ruined, the local government said.

Flights for volunteers

Japan’s three major airlines said Friday that they will offer free one-way tickets for volunteers to return home after aiding relief operations around Mount Usu in Hokkaido, which erupted on March 31 for the first time in nearly 23 years.

The decision by Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways and Japan Air System is aimed at helping the volunteers’ efforts in the evacuation centers. and will assist those who are registered with the Hokkaido-based head office for volunteer activities, airline officials said.

The volunteers will receive free tickets from Sapporo to Tokyo’s Haneda airport, or the airports in Nagoya, Osaka or Fukuoka, during the one-month period from May 11 to June 10.

According to the officials, volunteers need to make reservations through the volunteer organization, which will make the bookings with the airlines.

However, the officials said only a limited number of flights and seats are available.

JAL gave out free round-trip tickets on flights from Haneda airport to Komatsu, Ishikawa Prefecture, during the oil spill caused by the sinking of the Russian tanker Nakhodka in early 1997.