National

Kin of Ontake eruption victims climb deadly volcano to mourn

Kyodo

Family members of those who died in the September 2014 eruption of Mount Ontake climbed the volcano straddling Nagano and Gifu prefectures Friday to mourn their loved ones.

The eruption, which killed 58 people and left five others missing, marked the deadliest volcanic disaster since the war.

Among the victims was Ryota Nomura, whose body was never recovered.

“For the past six years, I’ve missed (my son). I want to bring him home as soon as possible,” said his father, Toshiaki Nomura, 60.

A total of 10 people ascended the area known as Otaki Peak, which is 2,936 meters high, to offer silent prayers at 11:52 a.m., the time of the Sept. 27 eruption.

Restrictions on the trail to the peak, which is near the ridge where many victims were found, were lifted for the first time since the eruption. In September 2018, some family members climbed to the summit of the 3,067-meter mountain via a different route.

The eruption struck when the volcanic alert level for the mountain was at 1, the lowest on the Meteorological Agency’s five-tier scale.

A Cabinet Office survey released last year showed about half of all municipalities near active volcanoes do not have evacuation plans. Only 105 of the 190 cities, towns and villages in designated warning areas near Japan’s 49 volcanoes had compiled evacuation plans as of July last year under a law that was revised in 2015 following the Ontake disaster, the survey said.

The revision was aimed at improving preparedness by obliging governments near volcanoes to draw up evacuation plans based on hazard maps and disaster scenarios.

But the municipalities have cited difficulties in drawing up the plans due to a lack of experts and data on past eruptions.

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