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Volcano Lets Loose In Japan
August 18, 2000 10:15 pm EST

Thousands Evacuate From Path Of Volcano

TOKYO, AUGUST 18, 2000 (CBS News) - A newly reawakened volcano erupted Friday on a small island near Tokyo, spewing a massive column of gray-black ash five miles into the air. More than 2,000 people were ordered to evacuate their homes.
It was the largest eruption from 2,686-foot Mount Oyama, which dominates the resort island of Miyake, since the volcano ended a 17-year slumber and began stirring last month. Though no injuries or damage were reported, ash and steam rose into the sky 120 miles south of Tokyo on a day when nerves in Japan's capital were already frayed by a series of earthquakes.

Authorities on Miyake, which is home to about 4,000 people, ordered 2,162 residents to evacuate to designated shelters, including a school gymnasium, local official Yoshiko Numata said. The evacuation came just eight days after 634 people on the 22-square-mile island were forced to leave their homes temporarily following a smaller eruption.

Friday's was the fifth and most spectacular in a series of eruptions that began July 9.

"This was on a different scale," said Tadashi Sakuma, who was helping to coordinate the island's relief efforts. "There was lots of ash and some cinders too."

Japan's Meteorological Agency said rising underground magma was probably to blame. It warned that volcanic activity on Miyake may continue.

The Meteorological Agency also urged caution because heavy rain was forecast for Saturday, raising the specter of mudslides racing down the volcano's ash-covered slopes.

Miyake is one of the largest of the Izu islands, a chain of volcanic islands off Tokyo that stretch 335 miles from north to south. Seismic activity has been intensifying in the area this week, and an observatory on Miyake had recorded almost 600 tremors since Friday afternoon, when Mount Oyama came to life.

AP Photo/Kyodo
Ash from the eruption
spewed some five miles
into the air.

The volcano last erupted in 1983. Five hundred homes were destroyed when lava flowed over its western flank, though timely evacuations prevented any casualties.

Elsewhere in Japan, one person was injured by a moderate tremor that rattled central Tokyo early Friday morning, and several islands near Miyake were struck by two more powerful quakes that caused landslides.

The only person injured by Friday's seismic and volcanic activity was a 62-year-old woman in Tokyo. She broke her shoulder when she was jolted off her sofa by the magnitude 4.0 earthquake that struck the city during the early morning hours.

That temblor was followed by two more powerful quakes, with preliminary magnitudes of 6.0 and 4.9, near the Izu islands. There were no reports of injuries, though the tremors triggered some mudslides.

The Meteorological Agency said the Tokyo earthquake was not related to the quakes or eruption in the Izu islands.

A fourth earthquake - also not related to the activity in the Izus - was recorded off Japan's eastern coast late Friday. The magnitude 5 tremor was barely felt in Ibaraki and other states north of Tokyo, however, as the focal point was about 12 miles underground.

Quakes of magnitude 5 are considered strong, and those of 6 or higher can cause severe damage near their epicenter.

One of the world's most seismically active countries, Japan has been jolted by a series of earthquakes and the eruptions of three different volcanoes in recent months. Tens of thousands of tremors have hit the Izu chain since the end of June. On July 1, a man was killed by a landslide following an earthquake on the island of Kozushima.

Though injuries and material damage have been light so far in the Izus, the continuing seismic and volcanic activity has hit residents where it hurts most: their wallets. Summer tourism and fishing are the main sources of income on most of the islands.


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