Drones used to survey Mount Hakone amid volcanic alert

JIJI

The prefectural government of Kanagawa on Saturday used drones to survey a no-go zone in the Owakudani hot spring district on Mount Hakone, where a level 2 volcanic alert has been in place.

The survey found that three hot spring supply facilities have been damaged. The Hakone area is one of the most popular hot spring resorts in Japan.

The prefectural government alternately flew two drones equipped with cameras to the survey area on Saturday morning.

The survey, which took about two hours, was intended to check the condition of hot spring facilities for which maintenance cannot be conducted due to the entry ban and also to check the district’s topography in preparation for installing sensors to monitor volcanic activity.

At a meeting held in the Kanagawa city of Odawara after the survey, a video of steam gushing out of the mountain was shown. The footage was taken by one of the drones from 15 to 20 meters above the ground.

Yasuo Otsuka, chief of the prefectural government’s industrial technology center, which conducted the drone survey, said, “The images were clearer than expected, so we were able to understand the situation in the area well even though weather conditions were bad due to fog.”

The prefecture plans to set up the sensors within a month.

On May 6, the Japan Meteorological Agency raised the volcanic alert for 1,438-meter Mount Hakone from level 1 to level 2 on a scale of 5, restricting access to areas around the crater.

The number of volcanic earthquakes in the mountain has decreased this month, with only four such quakes observed on Friday.

On Saturday, however, 62 quakes had occurred by 3 p.m. Around 11:44 a.m., a quake measuring 2 on the Japanese earthquake intensity scale of 7 was recorded in the Yumoto area of the town of Hakone.