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Hyogo forest fire forces hundreds to evacuate.

KOBE, March 19 Kyodo

(EDS: UPDATING WITH LATEST INFO)

A forest fire broke out Tuesday morning on a mountain in Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture, leading city officials to order 93 households, comprising 261 people, to evacuate, police said.

Although the fire is still some distance from the residential area of Fujigaoka in Takarazuka, another 162 households have also been advised to leave as a precaution. The 241 households, some 718 people, live about 300 meters from the fire's current location.

Takarazuka has also set up a disaster headquarters, which reported the fire had consumed about 21 hectares as of 6 p.m. Tuesday.

There are no reports of injuries, city officials and the police said, and there is only a low possibility that the fire will spread to houses, according to the headquarters.

A total of about 50 fire engines, with about 200 firefighters, have been mobilized to extinguish the blaze, which was first spotted shortly before 11 a.m. and continues to spread.

At the request of the Hyogo prefectural government, the Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF), as well as the neighboring cities of Kyoto and Osaka, have mobilized 12 emergency helicopters.

Active fire fighting was suspended at 6 p.m. due to darkness, but the prefectural government asked the GSDF to dispatch 40 personnel to conduct night watch duties and monitor the blaze.

Police and firefighters also dispatched about 100 personnel for the night watch.

Water supplies, meanwhile, were suspended temporarily after the fire fighting, city officials said. Subsequently, water trucks were mobilized to provide residents with drinking water.

As of 7 p.m. Tuesday, 173 households comprising 362 people had evacuated to a municipal elementary school, according to the headquarters, and said residents have voluntarily left other areas for public halls and other places.

A mountain villa owned by the family of Toshio Iue, the founder of Sanyo Electric Co., caught fire and a two-story pagoda in the grounds was destroyed, Sanyo Electric said.

The pagoda, built during the 1600s and reconstructed in 1917, was not a designated cultural heritage building, according to the Takarazuka city office.

Smoke and flames fanned by winds have been spreading in an easterly direction from several spots on the mountain, the police said.

According to a weather station in Kobe, a dry weather warning has been in effect since last Friday, and fairly strong winds were blowing when the fire started.

A woman who lives about 500 meters south of the fire said, ''Mountain (forest) fires frequently occur around here, and my reaction was, 'Not again'.''

The mountain is about 1 kilometer north of Yamamoto Station on the Hankyu-Takarazuka Line.
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Publication:Japan Weekly Monitor
Date:Mar 25, 2002
Words:437
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