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HOME  > Past issues  > 2021 June 2 - 8  > Utilize lessons from past pyroclastic flows to strengthen measures relating to active volcanoes
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2021 June 2 - 8 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Utilize lessons from past pyroclastic flows to strengthen measures relating to active volcanoes

June 2, 2021

Akahata editorial (excerpts)

June 3 marked the 30th year of an eruption at Fugen-dake, the second highest peak of Mt. Unzen (Nagasaki Pref.), which led to a large-scale pyroclastic flow taking the lives of 43 people. Many houses and farm land were heavily damaged and local inhabitants had to take shelter in temporary housing for a long period of time. The Liberal Democratic Party government could not quickly and adequately handle the disaster. The inadequate response by the government was called into question. It is an important task for the government to protect the lives and livelihoods of people from the damages associated with volcanic eruptions. The government should work on efforts to strengthen measures concerning active volcanoes by incorporating lessons learned from past volcanic eruptions.

In November 1990, Fugen-dake erupted for the first time in 198 years followed by repeated pyroclastic flows and mudslides. It was in June 1996 when Fugen-dake's eruptions ceased. The 5-and-a half-year-long eruptive activities killed 43 people, destroyed about 1,400 houses, and forced more than 10,000 people to evacuate from their homes and take refuge, putting on display how insufficient Japan's volcano observation system, disaster countermeasures, and anti-disaster preparedness were. The LDP government clung to the existing disaster control mechanisms and did not compensate individuals for the costs to rebuild their homes or restore their businesses. This brought further suffering to many victims. At present, local municipalities around Mt. Unzen are demanding that the central government improve the observation and monitoring system.

In 2014, Mt. Ontakesan (Nagano and Gifu Prefs.) erupted and took 63 lives. In 2018, Mt. Kusatsu-shiranesan (Gunma Pref.) erupted and 12 people were killed or injured. The importance placed on volcanic disaster prevention measures has been increasing, but there are not many volcanologists in Japan who are expected to play a key role in volcanic disaster preparedness. The budget for volcano studies was cut back after government-run universities were turned into independent administrative institutions in 2004. It is necessary for Japan, where about 7% of world's volcanoes are located, to urgently upgrade and reinforce the observation and monitoring system. To work to increase the number of researchers and the amount of budget are essential to promote volcanic disaster prevention.

Past related article:
> Gov’t policy to downsize Meteorological Agency hinders volcano monitoring [February 12, 2018]

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