• Staff Report, Kyodo


Evacuees from volcano-stricken Kuchinoerabu Island in Kagoshima Prefecture have launched a newsletter to keep in touch while they remain scattered in temporary accommodations around the region.

The newsletter carries information from the local government and a range of messages from people offering help such as financial support and donations of items such as beds.

“My heart broke when I heard the news,” reads a message from a well-wisher in Tokyo who offers advice on finding pet sitters in the event that evacuees cannot take their animals into the evacuation centers.

“Maybe this time some people evacuated with their pets, but I’m sure most residents had to leave them behind,” she said.

The four-page newsletter was first published on Tuesday. It is hung on the walls of the evacuation center on Yakushima Island and is also available on Kuchinoerabu’s official Internet portal: kuchi-erabu.org/img/2015-6-2kabe_shinbun2.pdf

“We aim to share all necessary information with islanders who have been forced to leave their homes and are scattered nationwide, so they can return home as soon as possible,” it declares.

Readers have responded enthusiastically.

“It made me feel like there are people who have not forgotten about us,” said one female evacuee in her 40s who is currently in the city of Kagoshima. “I’ll keep checking for the news.”

The website was originally set up to offer information about island accommodation and attractions for potential visitors. However, it is now run by locals involved in nature conservation.

One of the individuals behind the newsletter is 72-year-old Hidemasa Yamaguchi. He and his wife are among the evacuees taking shelter on the island of Yakushima.

They believe the newsletter will not only serve as a source of information for the islanders but may also help bring the community back to life.

Yamaguchi formed the nature conservation group three years ago with fellow elderly residents. Together, they have studied the habitat of Erabu flying fox, also known as the Erabu fruit bat, an indigenous subspecies designated as a “national natural monument.”

The animal is a subspecies of the Ryukyu flying bat and is known for its wingspan. It is found on Kuchinoerabu and several neighboring islands near Kagoshima.