National

Victims of Mount Ontake eruption mourned on third anniversary of eruption

Kyodo

Victims’ families and friends on Wednesday marked the third anniversary of the eruption of Mount Ontake, the nation’s deadliest postwar volcanic disaster, which killed 58 people and left five more missing and presumed dead.

In the Nagano Prefecture village of Otaki at the foot of the volcano, a cenotaph and monument with the names of the known victims and missing were unveiled.

Attendees at a memorial ceremony observed a moment of silence at 11:52 a.m., the time of the 2014 eruption.

Earlier in the morning, hikers and friends of the victims offered flowers and prayers near the starting point of a route up the mountain, which straddles Nagano and Gifu prefectures.

“My feeling has never changed for the last three years,” said Kiyokazu Tokoro, who lost his 26-year-old son Yuki in the blast.

A 66-year-old man from Yamanashi Prefecture, who was engulfed by the eruption and lost two friends, said he wanted to go mountain-climbing with them again and make more pleasant memories.

Since January, family members of some victims have filed damage suits against the central and prefectural governments in the Nagano District Court’s Matsumoto Branch, claiming the weather agency had failed to raise the alert level for hikers even though it had detected dozens of volcanic quakes before the eruption. The plaintiffs said the weather agency should have stopped hikers from entering a danger area within 1 kilometer of the crater.

They also accused the Nagano Prefectural Government of having left two broken seismographs near the peak in a state of disrepair.

In August, the Meteorological Agency slashed the volcanic alert level to the lowest level for the first time in three years, but local governments maintain entry restrictions within a 1-kilometer area around the crater.