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Months after the eruption at Mount Ontake last September, which left at least 57 climbers dead, the government prepares to beef up the nation’s defense against volcanic eruptions, including expanded surveillance, more detailed and timely dissemination of data and warnings on volcanic activities, and the creation of hazard maps and evacuation plans by local authorities. The worst postwar volcanic disaster meanwhile shed light on the serious shortage of volcano experts in Japan, where 7 percent of the world’s active volcanoes are concentrated. Sustained long-term efforts are needed to minimize the loss of lives from future eruptions.

The search for the six people still missing around the 3,067 meter peak of the volcano on the border of Nagano and Gifu prefectures has remained suspended since October due to snow and is not expected to resume until June at the earliest. Authorities still call for caution against possible eruptions in areas within a 2 km radius of the crater.

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