March 30, 2023
TOKYO – Residents of areas within the reach of potential lava flows should Mt. Fuji erupt are urged to evacuate on foot in principle — instead of by car as previously recommended — to avoid traffic congestion, under a new evacuation plan announced Wednesday.
The coordinating committee for Mt. Fuji volcano disaster countermeasures, comprising Yamanashi, Shizuoka, and Kanagawa prefectures and other entities, decided on the plan to prepare for possible eruptions of Japan’s tallest mountain.
In addition to the change in how residents should evacuate, the new plan seeks to avoid confusion by having tourists leave the area at the earliest signs of an eruption, to prevent delays in residents escaping.
In 2021, the committee began reviewing its 2015 evacuation plan, following the expansion of areas expected to be covered by lava on an eruption hazard map. The map itself had been revised for the first time in 17 years.
Since releasing an interim report in March 2022, the committee has been studying such details as the timing of evacuations. The plan mainly targets 116,093 people in Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures, a significant increase from the 16,274 covered in the previous plan.
The Japan Meteorological Agency has set criteria for determining five volcanic alert levels indicating the danger of an eruption of Mt. Fuji.
According to the new plan, tourists should return home by car or train between the time a Level 1 alert is issued indicating the potential for increased volcanic activity, and the time a Level 3 alert is issued warning people not to approach the volcano.
Climbers above the fifth station of Mt. Fuji should head back down when such alerts are issued.
Elderly people, wheelchair users and others who need assistance should evacuate by car when a Level 4 alert is issued telling people to prepare to evacuate. Having tourists and climbers leave first is meant to prevent people in need of assistance from being delayed by traffic jams and other problems.
The new plan also stipulates evacuation measures for children for the first time. A Level 3 alert will close all schools and kindergartens in the evacuation areas, and children are to be transferred to the custody of their parents or guardians in principle.
As for residents in general, people in areas where pyroclastic flows and large eruptions are not expected and that lava flows would reach within three hours are urged to evacuate on foot after an eruption. This is based on the assumption that lava flows will travel at about walking speed in urban areas with gentle gradients.
But, residents can also leave by car if they go at the same early time as tourists, so that evacuations will be spread out.