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Yamanashi, Shizuoka boost rockfall countermeasures after fatal accident on Mt. Fuji

Mount Fuji is seen from a Mainichi helicopter flying over Mishima, Shizuoka Prefecture. (Mainichi)
A warning sign informing climbers of a recent rockfall accident and urging them to be on their guard is seen near the seventh station of the Subashiri trail on Mount Fuji on Aug. 31, 2019. (Mainichi/Yoshihiro Yanagawa)
A patrol member, left, adjusts a rope and stake supporting a no trespassing sign along an overlapping section of the Subashiri and Yoshida trails near the top of Mount Fuji on Sept. 1, 2019. A net covering a rocky slope that collapsed following a typhoon last autumn is seen on the right. (Mainichi/Yoshihiro Yanagawa)

The Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectural governments have taken measures to help prevent rockfall accidents on Mount Fuji in the wake of a Russian climber's death on the mountain.

A 29-year-old Russian woman, from Tokyo's Shinagawa Ward, was walking on a trail about 200 meters below the summit with her 30-something husband at around 5 a.m. on Aug. 26, when falling rocks struck her in the chest and other parts of her body, local police said. According to Fujiyoshida Police Station in Yamanashi Prefecture, the cause of her death was a traumatic cardiopulmonary injury, but she also suffered a head injury as she was not wearing a helmet.

In response to the accident, the Yamanashi Prefectural Government conducted an on-site inspection near the top of Mount Fuji. This covered a rocky area that underwent restoration work between June and July this year after collapsing in a typhoon last autumn. However, as no traces of recent rockfall or problems with a net covering the slope could be found, the prefectural government believes the rocks that fell on the Russian women came from a different place.

The Yamanashi Prefectural Government has roped off an area extending for about 30 meters and hung a "no trespassing" sign in front of the pile of rocks near the summit to prevent people from walking on them.

The Shizuoka Prefectural Government, meanwhile, has installed several rockfall warning signs urging climbers to wear helmets along the prominent Fujinomiya, Subashiri and Gotenba mountain trails.

An official from the Shizuoka Prefectural Government's Road Maintenance Division commented, "It's dangerous to veer off the mountain trail because those areas lack thorough maintenance and rockfall can occur." The official called for people to choose appropriate places to take rests and to refrain from overtaking other climbers even when the trails are crowded.

According to the Fujiyoshida Municipal Government in Yamanashi Prefecture, helmet rentals at the Safety Guidance Center at the sixth station of Mount Fuji surged following the fatal rockfall accident. Until recently, the center had a stock of about 140 helmets for adults and around 60 kids' helmets, but the municipal government on Aug. 30 equipped the center with 50 more helmets for adults.

A representative of the Fujiyoshida Municipal Government's Mt. Fuji Division stated, "Please be aware of the possibility of rockfall when climbing Mount Fuji."

(Japanese original by Kenji Noro and Ryotaro Ikawa, Kofu Bureau, and Yukina Furukawa, Shizuoka Bureau)

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