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Japanese Troops on Alert Following Volcanic Threats

Date Posted: 2000-04-01

Japan’s Ground Self-Defence Force has placed placed 3,300 soldiers on standby to assist with an evacuation if a rumbling volcano erupts on the northernmost island of Hokkaido. According to press reports quoting government sources, the move was announced just hours after a mild earthquake measuring 3.0 on the Japanese scale of 7 rocked the town of Date, at the foot of Mount Usu, the latest seismic activity around the volano that has churned back to life in the last few days. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage from the quake.

Apart from the 3,300 soldiers on standby at bases near the volcano, about 40 were already being deployed on reconnaissance missions to keep an eye on the volcano’s activity, the Defence Force official said. The troops were preparing food, water and blankets in case a full evacuation of the area became necessary, he said. Scientists and officials warned on Tuesday that the volcano on Japan's northernmost main island of Hokkaido that killed three people in its last eruption 20 years ago may be about to blow up again, perhaps within days.

According to local officials, some 270 residents of the locality, mostly elderly people and those with physical disabilities, have already requested to be evacuated, a local official said. 55,000 people live in five towns around the foot of the mountain, including the hot spring resort town of Toya, could be affected by an eruption.

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