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The news that bird flu was detected at a chicken farm in Nobeoka, Miyazaki Prefecture, has rekindled farm owners’ bitter memories of an outbreak four years ago that resulted in more than 1 million birds being culled.

Mitsuko Komoto, a 52-year-old chicken farm owner in the city of Hyuga, said she is worried this may be the start of another serious outbreak.

“I remember how we struggled desperately four years ago, because our farm was within the 10-km radius of the designated epidemic zone,” she said. “I can only hope they act quickly and sanitize the farm thoroughly to avoid spreading the infection.”

On Tuesday morning, an emergency meeting was called at the prefectural office. Attended by 60 people, including members of a poultry farming organization, the meeting sought to find ways to combat the situation.

“We were instructed to suspend the shipping of eggs that we planned to send today,” 73-year-old farmer Koichiro Nagatomo said, adding that since his farm commissions part of its egg production to another farm in Oita Prefecture, it was also ordered to halt shipping. “We could be in big trouble if such a restriction continues long.”

Early Tuesday, a nearly 80-member team of prefectural and municipal staff were dispatched to the Nobeoka farm, where the bird flu virus was detected through a genetic test. They began the work of culling the farm’s animals in an attempt to contain the infection.

Staff in white protective clothing arrived by bus in the rain. Heavy machinery was also brought in to dig a ditch to bury the birds’ carcasses, as well as tanks filled with antiseptic solution.

Vehicles going in and out of the farm were sanitized in the middle of the road leading into the farm.

“It’s so sad. They are healthy chickens,” said 56-year-old Hisaharu Kai, who participated in the operation from a local agricultural co-op. “I had to remind myself of what the producers feel.”

Kai, who said he also took part in the cull four years ago, added that “they are excellent farm operators and they did all they could to prevent infection, but this still happened.”

According to Kai, five birds at a time were killed. The carcasses were then put in a bag and thrown into a roughly 8-meter-deep hole where they will be buried.

Speaking to reporters at 3 a.m. Tuesday, Teturo Nakada, a senior official of Miyazaki’s animal farming oversight division, said he regretted that bird flu was again detected despite efforts to prevent a recurrence.

“We hope to bring this under control as quickly as possible,” he said. “We did whatever we could, and we regret it had to happen again.”

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