• Kyodo


The town of Abuta on Tuesday decided to lift evacuation orders for 1,876 of its residents taking shelter from the eruption of nearby Mount Usu as of 9 a.m. today.

Abuta Mayor Yoshio Nagasaki met with volcano experts Tuesday — a day after scientists reported that volcanic activity at Mount Usu may soon end — to discuss partially lifting evacuation orders that have affected thousands of residents.

About 7,000 residents of the town were obliged to abandon their homes under the orders, which are based on three levels of perceived danger.

The mayor first met with Hiromu Okada, chairman of the local section of the Coordinating Committee for Prediction of Volcanic Eruption, to discuss whether they should allow the residents to return.

Later, Nagasaki met with representatives of relevant government authorities, including staff from the National Land Agency, the National Police Agency, the Self-Defense Forces and the Hokkaido Prefectural Government.

The group discussed ways of providing assistance when emergency evacuations are called and is expected to issue an announcement next Tuesday at the earliest.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori urged caution regarding reports of subdued volcanic activity. “Adequate care still needs to be taken,” Mori said. “When dealing with Mother Nature, you can never been too prudent.”

On Monday, the prediction council said volcanic activity at Mount Usu may soon cease, but it also said continued surveillance is necessary on the western face of Mount Nishi and at Mount Konpira, which together make up Mount Usu.

The evacuation has been a source of frustration for residents, many of whom have been barred from returning permanently to their homes since March.

Mount Usu erupted March 31 for the first time in 23 years and has since been spewing ash and steam. Nobody has been injured thanks to early and extensive evacuation efforts.