Japan volcano: 30 hikers feared dead on Mt Ontake

BBC News

Japan volcano: 30 hikers feared dead on Mt Ontake

The hikers were not breathing and their hearts had stopped, reports said. Final confirmation of death in Japan always comes via a medical examination.

About 250 people were trapped on the slopes of the popular beauty spot, but most have got down safely.

The volcano, about 200km (125 miles) west of Tokyo, erupted without warning on Saturday, spewing ash and rocks.

The eruption forced many of those on the mountain to make emergency descents through clouds of volcanic ash and falling rocks.

Almost 50 people were thought to have stayed on the mountain overnight, reports said.

As the search effort intensified earlier on Sunday, officials said they were searching for 30 people feared missing or buried by ash.

Confirmation soon came that a similar number of people had been found unresponsive on the mountain.

“We have confirmed that more than 30 individuals in cardiac arrest have been found near the summit,” a Nagano police spokesman told the AFP news agency.

Military helicopters plucked seven people off the mountainside earlier on Sunday, according to reports, and workers on foot were also helping others make their way down.

Clouds of ash spew from Mount Ontake, 28 September 2014
The eruption continued under clear blue skies on Sunday
Rescue teams working at a mountain refuge on Mt Ontake, 28 September 2014
Teams have been recovering people from mountainside lodges now covered in thick volcanic ash
Volcanic smoke rises from Mount Ontake, 27 September 2014.
Residents over a large area have been warned of the risk of falling stones

No warning

Japan is one of the world’s most seismically active nations but there have been no fatalities from volcanic eruptions since 1991, when 43 people died at Mount Unzen in the south-west.

The BBC’s Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, in Tokyo, says it’s not clear why there was no warning of Saturday’s eruption.

Japan monitors its volcanoes closely and any that show signs of activity are immediately closed to hikers – but this time that did not happen.

The sudden eruption on Saturday was described as “like thunder” by one woman who runs a lodge near the summit.

Heavy, toxic volcanic ash up to 20cm (8in) thick covered much of the mountain, reports said.

“All of a sudden ash piled up so quickly that we couldn’t even open the door,” Shuichi Mukai, who worked in a mountain lodge just below the peak, told Reuters.

“We were really packed in here, maybe 150 people. There were some children crying, but most people were calm. We waited there in hard hats until they told us it was safe to come down.”

Ordinarily Mount Ontake is a popular place to see autumn foliage.

Its peak is 3,067m (10,120ft) high and the mountain is a popular hiking route, dotted with lodges, cabins and well-marked trails.

Smoke from the eruption rises from Mount Ontake (27 September 2014)
The colours on Mount Ontake are usually a big draw for walkers at this time of year
Map
Source:  BBC News, 08:56, 28 September 2014

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Japan Trends blog: Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ child abduction pamphlet

Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs sends “racist” Hague Child Abduction Convention pamphlet to embassies

Written by: William on September 17, 2014 at 10:49 pm | In LIFESTYLE | 3 Comments

 

The knives are out and accusations of racism are being bandied around again. Only this time it’s not a silly corporate ad with fake noses that’s to blame.

The culprit this time is Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which has sent an 11-page leaflet to Japanese embassies and consulates. The education literature has been published in response to Japan finally ratifying the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, reports the South China Morning Post.

japan racist pamphlet leaflet sent to embassies hague convention child abduction

This has been a matter of contention in Japan, which has been seen as soft on issues of child abduction — mostly notably Japanese partners taking their child to Japan and away from the other parent who is foreign, who until now could not do anything about it. Signing the Convention, going into effect from this past April in Japan, means that children taken by one parent are legally required to be returned to the country of their regular residence. In other words, a Japanese parent cannot suddenly take their child out of a foreign country where they had been living full-time.

The pamphlet uses manga-esque images (taking its subject seriously, then) and, more offensively to some, depicts a white man apparently assaulting or abusing a Japanese-looking child as she dreams of her mother far away in Japan.

japan racist pamphlet leaflet sent to embassies hague convention child abduction

While it is common for even official documents in Japan to use manga imagery, the one-sided portrayal of the issue has angered people like Debito Arudou, a naturalized Japanese citizen originally from America. It particularly makes some indignant because the issue of child abduction that got many activists campaigning for Japan to ratify the Convention was most infamously due to cases of Japanese (usually women) taking their half-Japanese child away from foreign partners (usually men).

To be fair, the leaflet is 11 pages long and depicts several scenarios, as Arudou shows on his website with a scan of the actual document (you can view a full translated version as a PDF on the MoFA website). However, the only image to show an “assault” is the one with a white man abusing a Japanese-looking child. (And in fact, one shortcoming of the Convention is that it may not be able to protect children from being returned to abusive parents.)

japan racist pamphlet leaflet sent to embassies hague convention child abduction

And government rubber-stamped “Cool Japan” rears its silly head too, with an anime figure bringing some cute moe to the proceedings and at one point acting as a kind of interlocutor between child and father, who is an otaku. Perhaps ultimately, more than actual discrimination, the truly offensive thing here is that the bureaucrats took a very serious issue and belittled it with a visual style that made it all seem silly.

Source:  Japan Trends, 17 September 2014

 

From the Shadows screening – USA

The film “From the Shadows”, about international child abduction in Japan, is to be screened at the Unspoken Human Rights Film Festival in Utica NY, USA, at 6pm on Saturday 4 October 2014.  This follows earlier screenings at the Philadelphia Film Festival (October 2012) and in Vancouver (November 2013).  There is an existing link to the film’s homepage on this blog’s blogroll to the right, although at the time of writing, it has yet to be updated with details of the latest screening. Go along if you can as the film comes highly recommended.  I hope that the next screening takes place somewhere in Europe so that I and others caught up in these matters this side of the Atlantic can get to view it as well.

Scotland votes to stay in United Kingdom

Scottish referendum: Scotland votes ‘No’ to independence

Scotland has voted to stay in the United Kingdom after voters decisively rejected independence.

With the results in from all 32 council areas, the “No” side won with 2,001,926 votes over 1,617,989 for “Yes”.

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond called for unity and urged the unionist parties to deliver on more powers.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron said he was delighted the UK would remain together and said the commitments on extra powers would be honoured.

Mr Cameron said the three main unionist parties at Westminster would now follow through with their pledge of more powers for the Scottish Parliament.

“We will ensure that those commitments are honoured in full,” he said.

He announced that Lord Smith of Kelvin, who led Glasgow’s staging of the Commonwealth Games, would oversee the process to take forward the commitments, with new powers over tax, spending and welfare to be agreed by November, and draft legislation published by January.

The prime minister also acknowledged that the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland must have a bigger say over their affairs.

And he promised a resolution to the West Lothian question – the fact that Scottish MPs can vote on English issues at Westminster.

In other developments:

The result became a mathematical certainty at 06:08, as the returning officer in Fife announced a comfortable No vote.

Shortly afterwards, Mr Salmond said he accepted the defeat and called for national unity.

He said the referendum and the high turnout had been a “triumph for the democratic process” and promised to keep his pledge in the Edinburgh Agreement which paved the way for the referendum to respect the result and work for the benefit of Scotland and the United Kingdom.

He told supporters: “The unionist parties made vows late in the campaign to devolve more powers to Scotland.

“Scotland will expect these to be honoured in rapid course – as a reminder, we have been promised a second reading of a Scotland Bill by March 27 next year.

And the First Minister said: “Whatever else we can say about this referendum campaign, we have touched sections of the community who have never before been touched by politics, these sections of the community have touched us and touched the political process.”

In a rallying call to his supporters, Mr Salmond urged the Yes voters to reflect on how far they had come.

“I don’t think any of us, whenever we entered politics, would have thought such a thing to be either credible or possible,” he said.

“Over the last few weeks we have seen a scare and a fear of enormous proportions – not a scaremongering directed at the Scottish people but the scare and the fear at the heart of the Westminster establishment as they realise the mass movement of people that was going forward in Scotland.

“Today of all days as we bring Scotland together, let us not dwell on the distance we have fallen short, let us dwell on the distance we have travelled and have confidence the movement is abroad in Scotland that will take this nation forward and we shall go forward as one nation.”

This margin of victory for the Better Together campaign – 55% to 45% – was greater by about 3% than that anticipated by the final opinion polls. The winning total needed was 1,852,828.

Speaking in Downing Street, Mr Cameron said the result was decisive.

He said: “Now the debate has been settled for a generation, or as Alex Salmond has said: ‘Perhaps for a lifetime’.

“So there can be no disputes, no re-runs; we have heard the will of the Scottish people.”

The prime minister also spoke of the implications for the other nations of the UK.

‘English voices’“In Wales there are proposals to give the Welsh Government and Assembly more powers and I want Wales to be at the heart of the debate on how to make the United Kingdom work for all our nations,” he said.

“In Northern Ireland, we must work to ensure that the devolved institutions function effectively.”

Mr Cameron said “millions of voices of England must also be heard”.

Scottish referendum results in detail

“The question of English votes for English laws, the so-called West Lothian question, requires a decisive answer so just as Scotland will vote separately in the Scottish Parliament on their issues on tax, spending and welfare, so too England as well as Wales and Northern Ireland should be able to vote on these issues.

“And all this must take place in tandem with and at the same pace as the settlement for Scotland.”

Constitutional revolutionAnalysis by Andrew Marr

What started as a vote on whether Scotland would leave the UK has ended with an extraordinary constitutional revolution announced outside Downing Street by the Prime Minister.

It throws down the gauntlet to the Labour Party that we are going to see very big change coming and it had better come quickly.

We always used to be told that if you laid all the economists in the world end to end they still wouldn’t reach a conclusion and I think that could be said often about parliamentary committees and inquiries and commissions.

Well, it can’t happen this time because it’s not taking place in a sealed room with the Westminster parties, the old smug consensus, getting round an argument with each other as before.

This is really taking place in a huge glass house, being watched by all the Scottish voters and by millions of people around the UK.

What the Scottish shock has done is produce a constitutional revolution on a very, very tight timetable. Possibly the most exciting political story in my lifetime.

Alistair Darling, who led the Better Together campaign, said the people of Scotland had “chosen unity over division and positive change rather than needless separation”.

“It is a momentous result for Scotland and also for the United Kingdom as a whole,” he said.

Mr Darling said the result had “reaffirmed all that we have in common and the bonds that tie us together”, adding: “Let them never be broken.”

“As we celebrate, let us also listen,” he said.

“More than 85% of the Scottish population has voted. People who were disengaged from politics have turned out in large numbers.

“While they have voted on the constitution, that was not the only or perhaps the major issue that drove them to the polls.

“Every political party must listen to their cry for change, which could be echoed in every part of our United Kingdom but had this opportunity to express itself in Scotland.”

Mr Darling thanked his “great team of volunteers” who had worked on the Better Together campaign.

‘Real disappointment’He added: “You represent the majority of opinion. Your voices have been heard. We have taken on the argument and won. The silent have spoken.”

Mr Salmond’s deputy, Nicola Sturgeon, said in an earlier concession statement that there was a “real sense of disappointment that we have fallen narrowly short of securing a ‘Yes’ vote”.

But she said the country had been “changed forever” and vowed to work with “anyone in any way” to secure more powers for Scotland.

The vote was the culmination of a two-year campaign. Talks will now begin on devolving more powers to Scotland.

Glasgow, Scotland’s largest council area and the third largest city in Britain, voted in favour of independence by 194,779 to 169,347, with Dundee, West Dunbartonshire and North Lanarkshire also voting “Yes”.

But Edinburgh, the nation’s capital, rejected independence by 194,638 to 123,927, while Aberdeen City voted “No” by a margin of more than 20,000 votes.

Source:  BBC News, 08:43, 19 September 2014

Hiroshima landslide: update (6)

Exactly 4 weeks have now passed since the landslide in my son’s city and almost 3 weeks have passed since I received the news that he is safe notwithstanding events there.  I said that it would post about this issue again.  News of the landslide has now faded not only from the headlines in Japan but also from the news generally.  According to the Wall Street Journal blogs site on 3 September 2014, the number of dead now stands at 72 with 2 people still missing; I have not been able to find anything more recent than this.  At least the death toll will be somewhat less than the earlier ‘missing’ figures suggested.  Local evacuation ‘advisories’ are reported as having been lifted.  This article from 2 September 2014 contains a series of close-up photographs which show some of the devastation in local neighbourhoods at close quarters.

Given the severity of what happened and the fact that lessons were not learned from the previous (and less deadly) Hiroshima landslide in 1999, one has to hope that the issue has not also slipped from the consciousness of decision makers in Hiroshima and elsewhere in Japan, given that Hiroshima-ken is particularly prone to this sort of incident.  Since I last posted on the issue, the only other significant coverage as regards the need for better readiness – and more common-sense positioning of residential properties – was this letter on 3 September 2014 in The Japan Times.  Change can be slow in Japan but this is one of those issues where that is not a good thing.