Mon, Feb 02, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Japan raises alert for potential volcanic eruption

BLAST FROM THE PAST Mount Asama, which is known for an eruption in 1783 that killed around 1,500 people, rained ash on areas as far as 200km away four years ago

AGENCIES , TOKYO

Japan’s Meteorological Agency increased the alert level at Mount Asama volcano in central Japan, warning of an eruption within two days, an agency official said yesterday.

The alert level was raised because of signs of increased seismic activity on Mount Asama, a 2,568m peak 140km northwest of Tokyo, the official said.

“There are prospects for an eruption that could throw volcanic rocks to a distance of around 4km,” Sadayuki Kitagawa, senior coordinator for volcanic affairs at Japan’s Meteorological Agency, said by telephone.

He said the type of seismic activity detected on the mountain pointed to the possibility of an eruption within a few hours to around two days.

Mount Asama, one of Japan’s more active volcanoes, had its biggest eruption in 21 years on Sept. 1, 2004, spewing hot rock and raining ash on areas as far as 200km away. That eruption, however, did not cause any major damage.

The warning level for a Mount Asama eruption was raised one notch to level three on a scale of five, in which five is the highest level of alert, Kitagawa said.

A level three alert covers non-residential areas near the crater of the volcano and warns people not to approach the volcano. It was the first such alert for Mount Asama since the Meteorological Agency adopted the volcanic warning levels in December 2007, Kitagawa said.

Mount Asama is known for a huge eruption in 1783 that caused widespread damage and killed around 1,500 people.

Meanwhile, a 5.8-magnitude earthquake struck off eastern Japan early yesterday, but there were no immediate reports of damage, officials said.

The country’s meteorological agency said there was no risk of a tsunami.

The tremor struck at 6:52am, with the epicenter in the Pacific Ocean off Ibaraki prefecture, the agency said.

The quake struck about 30km below sea level, the agency said.

Around 20 percent of the world’s most powerful earthquakes strike Japan.

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