An updated escape plan in the event Mt. Fuji erupts calls on nearby residents to evacuate on foot in principle, in a shift from the previous plan that assumed the use of cars, the disaster management council for Japan's tallest mountain said Wednesday.
The council, consisting of bodies including the central government, Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures, which the 3,776-meter volcano straddles, and nearby Kanagawa Prefecture, revised the evacuation plan for the first time in nine years based on revisions made to the Mt. Fuji hazard map in 2021.
The plan calls for those living in areas where lava flows are expected to reach within 24 hours of the eruption to evacuate on foot to prevent traffic jams, although they may use vehicles when they voluntarily evacuate before the eruption.
Vehicle use is also allowed for residents near the crater and those in areas where lava flows are expected to take more than 24 hours to reach. Those who need assistance, including the elderly and persons with disabilities, can use vehicles regardless of where they live, the plan said.
Based on the latest plan, municipalities around Mt. Fuji will each compile a more detailed evacuation plan. But they are expected to face concerns from residents who use cars in their daily lives.
When signs of an eruption are detected, municipalities would call for the early voluntary evacuation of residents who have somewhere they can stay far from the mountain, to avoid problems and confusion following an actual eruption.
For climbers on Mt. Fuji, the municipalities would urge them to go home by bus or on foot after notifying them there is a possibility the Japan Meteorological Agency will raise the volcanic alert level to 3 on the 5-point scale. This restricts entry to the volcano.
According to the plan, residents in areas forecast to be hit by large cinders and pyroclastic flow are asked to evacuate before the eruption as trying to take refuge after such catastrophe occurs would be impossible.
As for volcanic ash falls, since the scope of impact depends on wind direction and cannot be predicted, the plan simply calls on residents to stay at home or take refuge in nearby buildings.
"We have put priority on safe evacuation, while also taking heed of continuity in social and economic activities," the council said, adding disasters related to volcanoes are very uncertain.
Mt. Fuji, some 100 kilometers southwest of Tokyo, last erupted in 1707. At the time, eruptions continued for 16 days, leaving a layer of volcanic ash about 4 centimeters thick in locations in current-day central Tokyo, according to historical records.
FOCUS: COVID-era relocation trend may be fading despite work flexibility
Hotel-shopping complex opens at Tokyo's Haneda airport
Luxury hotel chain to open in Japan's highest building in 2028