February 10, 2006

No Sign Mt Fuji to Erupt, but Japan Makes Plan

TOKYO -- Japan's government is expected to announce this month measures to deal with a possible eruption for of its famed Mount Fuji, officials said, but they added there were no signs that the long-dormant volcano had become active.

The 12,390-foot Mount Fuji has not erupted for nearly three centuries, but signs of increased seismic activity five years ago prompted the government to create a panel to begin work on an evacuation plan.

The panel has already outlined ways to evacuate people near Mount Fuji, the best locations for shelters, and envisaged flow routes of lava, ash, gas and rocks.

The reports to date have also stressed the need to ensure efficient communications between the central and local governments and residents in the area by using the Internet, television and radio.

The panel has also called for the government to provide training on evacuation to local governments, hotels and travel agencies and for volunteer systems to be set up.

"After all, there are no signs that an eruption of Mouth Fuji is imminent," said a Cabinet Office official. "But it is important for us to sort out what the government can do."

The government will put together the panel's recommendations into an official plan.

The nearly conical Fuji is classified as a dormant volcano, since it last erupted in 1707, but the government was rattled in November 2000 when the number of small earthquakes shaking the peak jumped to more than 200 from a monthly average of around 20.

Japan, which lies at the intersection of several tectonic plates, is regularly rattled by tremors of varying strength, with volcanic eruptions not infrequent.