Japanese ports inundated by pumice stone spewed out by the underwater volcano

Japanese ports inundated by pumice stone spewed out by the underwater volcano

Vast amounts of pumice pebbles, spewed months ago by an underwater volcano, have clogged dozens of ports and damaged fishing boats along Japan’s southernmost coasts.

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihiko Isozaki said on Friday that pumice has so far affected 11 Okinawa ports and 19 others in Kagoshima Prefecture on Japan’s southernmost island of Kyushu, and forced the central government to establish a disaster recovery task force.

About 40 fishing boats were damaged, six of which were unable to move, and ferry services connecting the isolated islands of Okinawa and Kagoshima were temporarily suspended.

Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki said there had been “a huge impact on the fishing and tourism industries as well as on the environment” and that the problem needed to be resolved quickly.

The clean-up operation has begun – at a port in Kunigami village, at the northern tip of the main island of Okinawa, around 10 tonnes of pumice stone are said to have been removed by huge excavators every day, and even more at Earth. A prefectural government official said the “unprecedented” operation could take two to three weeks.

“We have no choice but to do the cleanup job by trial and error,” Kyodo News said, citing the manager. “We will think about how to remove the pumice stones after checking the safety aspects. “

The gray pebbles originated from the submarine volcano Fukutokuokanoba, hundreds of kilometers away in the Ogasawara Island Range, which erupted in mid-August. The islands are located approximately 1,000 km (600 miles) south of Tokyo.

The Japanese Coast Guard distributed a map showing the pumice drift model and warned ships in the area to keep a close eye to prevent their engine systems from being clogged with pebbles. One of its own patrollers was stranded during training drills on Saturday after encountering pebbles off the coast of Okinawa.

Isozaki warned the pebbles were moving north and could affect entire Japanese coasts. “As the pumice stone on the sea surface could spread to much of Japan, we will continue to treat the issue carefully,” he said.

The government task force, at its first meeting on Thursday evening, decided to provide support to local municipalities as a disaster recovery project, and that damage to fishing industries will be covered by insurance, a said Isozaki. The full cost of the disaster is still unknown.

The Yomiuri Shimbun reported that around 750 fishing boats were unable to leave Okinawa Harbor due to engine problems and that around 150 Indian mackerel, which was locally grown, died after apparently swallowing pumice.

The Nuclear Regulatory Authority is also monitoring the movement of pebbles to avoid any impact on Japan’s coastal nuclear power plants.

With Associated Press


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