National

Three-prefecture drill held to practice Mount Fuji eruption

Kyodo

Shizuoka and two other prefectures that host or are close to Mount Fuji conducted a disaster drill Sunday to prepare for a potential eruption of Japan’s highest active volcano involving lava.

The aim of the drill, the first of its kind involving Shizuoka, Yamanashi and Kanagawa prefectures, was to confirm how they would cooperate and coordinate with the central government in such a situation and search for victims in the eruption’s wake.

About 2,500 people from 26 municipalities in the prefectures were expected to participate, according to the Shizuoka Prefectural Government.

The drill assumed that the Meteorological Agency would have the ability to predict the eruption one to two months ahead of time.

According to the drill, the eruption occurred before noon on Sunday in the city of Gotemba in Shizuoka in an area about 2,000 meters up the 3,776-meter peak, sending ash and smoke 20 km above sea level.

A teleconference linking the Cabinet Office with the three prefectural governments was held as residents simulated evacuations in several municipalities in Yamanashi and Kanagawa. More than 20 concrete blocks weighing about 2 tons each were to be brought in to build a makeshift dike to prevent the lava from burning through the city.

The drill came three weeks after at least 56 people were killed in the nation’s worst eruption in more than 90 years, on Mount Ontake, a 3,067-meter mountain straddling Nagano and Gifu prefectures. The phreatic eruption, which occurred without warning, did not produce any lava.

Mount Fuji last had a major eruption in 1707, 49 days after a large earthquake. The eruption is said to have continued for two weeks, blanketing areas as far away as what is now Tokyo with several centimeters of ash.

An estimated 470,000 people in Shizuoka, Yamanashi and Kanagawa would be forced to evacuate if Mount Fuji experienced a similar eruption, according to an official evacuation plan.

If large amounts of lava come out, the evacuation estimate would jump to 689,000 people, and the nation’s major transport arteries, including the Tokaido Shinkansen Line and the Tomei Expressway, would be cut off by ash, the plan says.