5 Years After Eruption, Climbers Return To Ontake

5 years after eruption, climbers return to Ontake

Friday marks five years since Japan's deadliest postwar volcanic disaster occurred. Mount Ontake in central Japan erupted on September 27, 2014, leaving 58 people dead and five others unaccounted for.

Officials in the village of Otaki in Nagano Prefecture are holding a memorial service to mark the occasion. The village sits at the foot of the mountain.

Bereaved families and local officials plan to observe a moment of silence at 11:52 a.m. -- the exact time of the eruption.

Earlier this year, the town of Kiso in Nagano Prefecture partially lifted entry restrictions for the summer climbing season for the first time since the eruption, allowing people to climb to the summit from July to mid-October.

Nagano prefectural officials say that during the two-month period through August, more than 9,800 people submitted a trekking itinerary to the prefecture. That's about a 2.6-fold increase over the same period last year.

The village of Otaki also plans to lift entry restrictions, which is expected to lead to a further increase in the number of climbers.

Local authorities face the challenge of devising safety measures, such as how to evacuate climbers quickly if the volcano erupts again.

Making climbers mindful that the volcano is potentially active is another challenge. The officials plan to step up efforts to provide information and raise awareness.

A 72-year-old man from Yokohama, near Tokyo, climbed to the summit of Mount Ontake early on Friday. He said he's surprised to know it's been five years since the eruption.

He said the disaster prompted him to think of the dangers of volcanoes and the importance of disaster prevention. He added that he wants to do what he can, such as by becoming better informed.