Residents pray for victims of 1991 Unzen eruption

Kyodo

Officials and residents of Shimabara, Nagasaki Prefecture, offered prayers and flowers Saturday to the 43 people killed in the 1991 volcanic eruption of Mount Unzen.

Shimabara Mayor Teijiro Yoshioka, families of the victims and local residents turned out at the memorial cenotaph despite the rain to pray for the souls of the dead on the ninth anniversary of their deaths.

“The damage (of the eruption) was beyond imagination. The administration and residents became united in the efforts to reconstruct, and we want to create a better Shimabara, not wasting the noble sacrifices of the victims,” Yoshioka said.

“We also hope from the bottom of our hearts that the residents around Mount Usu in Hokkaido will be able to resume their normal lives soon,” the mayor said.

The 732-meter Mount Usu erupted March 31 for the first time in nearly 23 years, spewing mud and smoke. No one was injured, due largely to early and extensive evacuation efforts affecting some 16,000 residents in southwestern Hokkaido.

Sirens will sound throughout Shimabara at 4:08 p.m. — the time when the 1,359-meter Mount Unzen began releasing a massive pyroclastic flow, killing the 43 people — to remind residents of the disaster and call on them to offer silent prayers.

Mount Unzen resumed volcanic activities Nov. 17, 1990, after being dormant for 198 years. Local authorities announced the end of volcanic activity at the mountain in June 1996.