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Mount Unzen Eruption Site to be Preserved

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Mount Unzen Eruption Site to be Preserved

Thirty years after a mountain disaster in southwestern Japan, locals started digging up an untouched area covered deep in ashes and dirt. Media organizations had used this place as a base for reporting on the volcanic activities of Mount Unzen in 1991.

On June 3 that year, a large-scale pyroclastic flow from the mountain’s Fugen peak killed 43 people, including journalists here. In early February this year, workers dug up the little that remains of three vehicles -- two taxis chartered by the press and a newspaper company’s car.

Locals want to preserve the area as a disaster remains. A camera monopod and a telephoto lens were found in the car. Japanese kanji characters engraved on the monopod read "photo department." According to Sugimoto Shinichi, a former Shimabara City official, "I feel that the site tells us many things. In addition to being a memorial site, I hope it will be a place where we can think about things like what it means to head to a disaster site or what journalism is."

Footage that was later retrieved showed that some reporters remained there until right before the pyroclastic flow hit the area. Officials hope to complete the preservation work around March 20.