Saturday, April 29, 2006

Japanese government getting ready to face Mount Fuji!

If Mount Fuji blows its top, the central government has a plan to keep a lid on the damage.
Its Central Disaster Management Council has decided on a base policy centering around two measures: early warning, and if necessary, speedy evacuation.

The plan calls for the Japan Meteorological Agency to issue a series of special volcano bulletins if an eruption is deemed imminent.

The mildest would ask people to stay away from 3,776-meter Mount Fuji; the strongest would set off an immediate evacuation.

The timing and extent of any evacuation have not been decided, nor have the specific responsibilities of national and local authorities.

Based on a "hazard map" drawn up in 2004, the council split the potential evacuees into three groups: general residents; those requiring assistance, such as the disabled and elderly; and tourists, 20 million of whom visit the area every year.

If the meteorological agency releases a bulletin warning of a possible eruption, local authorities will call on tourists to avoid the "crater coverage area," where volcanic fissures would be likely.

In the event that the agency releases a more serious emergency volcano report, the government will convene its Coordinating Committee for Prediction of Volcanic Eruptions, on which dozens of volcano experts sit.

Local authorities will order the evacuation of everyone in the crater coverage area, and of people requiring assistance from those areas where lava could flow to within 24 hours.

The strongest report warns of an eruption that could endanger human life. In that case, authorities will order the evacuation of all districts where lava could hit within three hours. Buses and other means of transportation will be on hand at previously designated meeting places.

Local authorities have already begun to prepare.

Last June, Shizuoka Prefecture's disaster prevention council added a Mount Fuji eruption scenario to its regional disaster-prevention plan. Based on that plan, Fujinomiya, Fuji, Gotenba and Oyama compiled their own disaster-prevention measures.

And in Yamanashi Prefecture, a guide explaining volcanic phenomena in easy-to-understand terms was distributed to all households in November 2004 by a group of eight municipalities. There is also a plan to prepare a volcanic disaster map showing evacuation points and other information.

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