More than 20 possible cases of theft have been reported on Miyake Island after its residents were forced to evacuate last summer due to volcanic eruptions, according to police.
The Metropolitan Police Department has found doors and windows of the vacated homes and shops apparently forced open and is investigating.
But MPD officials question whether the burglaries were worth the effort as the islanders were told to remove all their valuables when they evacuated. The island also remains off-limits.
In early May, a construction worker engaged in rebuilding the island’s damaged infrastructure contacted the MPD and said he had found a broken window at a relative’s house when he went to check on its condition.
The MPD’s Miyake station dispatched officers to examine all the houses on the island.
The officers found that windows had been shattered and doors broken at more than 20 houses and shops, mostly in areas close to the island’s eastern and western harbors.
A door to a liquor store warehouse had also been forced, according to the police.
Volcanic gas has also corroded the keyholes of many doors. Some officials initially believed that people who had gone to the island to carry out reconstruction work had been asked by islanders to pick up their belongings but had been forced to break the windows because they could not use the keys.
Police have since confirmed that no such requests have been made and now suspect theft.
There is speculation that a group of thieves may have chartered a boat to sneak onto the island.
Late last month, the MPD airlifted investigators to the island to assess the situation. Police are considering allowing some islanders to return temporarily to determine whether they have been burglarized.
After Miyake residents were forced to evacuate during eruptions in 1983, some islanders complained to police that expensive potted plants had been stolen in large quantities during their absence. In September, Mount Oyama, located in the center of the island, began erupting and forced all 3,850 inhabitants to evacuate.
On May 28, experts issued a statement that activity at the 813-meter volcano is generally subsiding. Despite this, islanders are unable to return because of the high levels of volcanic gas that continue to be emitted.
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