Thursday, January 26, 2006

Imperial couple plans a visit on island scarred by volcanic eruptions

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko will make a day trip to Miyake Island in March to offer encouragement to the islanders, who are rebuilding their communities destroyed by volcanic eruptions that began in 2000, the Imperial Household Agency said Wednesday.

They will fly to the island, 200 km south of Tokyo, to see how the residents are progressing, it said.
The couple will carry gas masks and will meet with residents indoors as the volcano continues to emit gas.

It will be the first time the couple will have set foot on the island since the volcano erupted. They flew over the island in a helicopter in July 2001 to view the damage.

The roughly 3,200 residents were evacuated on orders issued in September 2000 by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, which administers the island, after several major eruptions the previous month. The order was lifted last February.

About 2,900 people have returned to Miyake so far. Schools on the island opened at the start of the academic year in April.

In his New Year's Day statement, the Emperor said he wished for the good health of both the people who had gone back to their homes and those who had not been able to return.

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