National

Ontake victims mourned a month after eruption as tourism industry scrambles to recover

Kyodo

The victims of the Mount Ontake eruption were mourned Monday as authorities and residents marked a month since the volcano killed 57 people and left six others missing.

Municipalities in the area meanwhile launched campaigns to woo visitors back to help the tourism industry, which is suffering from the repercussions of the sudden eruption.

Officials from Nagano Prefecture, the town of Kiso and the village of Otaki at the mountain’s base observed a moment of silence at 11:52 a.m., the time of the Sept. 27 eruption.

Kiso and Otaki put up stands for floral tributes, while in Otaki a memorial service was held at the initiative of local residents.

“We wanted to sympathize with family members of the victims and use this as an opportunity to pray that the volcano will calm down,” said Yoko Kotani, the 61-year-old organizer of the memorial service.

Search efforts for those listed as missing were called off Oct. 16 for the remainder of the year. The Nagano Prefectural Government deemed it too risky to continue because snow was starting to fall, making conditions even more treacherous on the 3,067-meter peak that straddles Nagano and Gifu prefectures. The search is expected to resume next spring.

Facing concerns about the eruption’s impact on the tourism industry, Nagano launched a reconstruction team mainly to provide support for communities living at the base of the mountain.

Parts of Otaki’s ski resorts are included in the restricted area, jeopardizing this year’s skiing season. Many guests have canceled reservations at inns and other lodging.

To help municipalities at the foot of the mountain, Aichi Gov. Hideaki Omura and Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura took part in an event to distribute fliers to promote tourism outside Nagoya Station, together with Nagano and Gifu officials.

About 60 people joined in the effort to pitch the charms of Mount Ontake and surrounding areas, including local officials in Aichi with close ties to Otaki, Kiso and other municipalities.

The Meteorological Agency’s eruption alert for the volcano remains at three on the scale of five, which means entry to the mountain and those around it is restricted.

“Volcanic activity is decreasing, but there is still the possibility of an eruption,” an agency official said.

The volcano, popular with hikers for its autumn leaves, experienced a major eruption in 1979, a minor one in 1991 and multiple volcanic earthquakes in 2007.