Eruption rains ash on parts of Tokyo

MONDAY, FEB. 2, 2009

Smoke plume rises more than a mile

TOKYO – A volcano erupted near Tokyo early today, spewing a plume of smoke more than a mile high and raining ash down on parts of the city. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

Mount Asama, about 90 miles northwest of Tokyo, erupted at 1:51 a.m. today, according to Japan’s Meteorological Agency. Chunks of rock from the explosion were found about 3,300 feet away from the volcano.

The agency said volcanic ash fell on nearby areas as well as parts of Tokyo.

The eruption was not big enough to disrupt daily life near the volcano, though many people awoke to find their cars covered in a fine layer of powder. National broadcaster NHK showed people in Tokyo lining up to get car washes, or wiping the ash from their windows.

In Tachikawa, a district in the northwest area of Tokyo, some farming areas were coated with ash.

“Because it’s February and not harvesting season, there was no real damage to any crops,” said Shoichi Matsumoto, a local official.

An alert level of three, which urges nearby residents to take caution, was kept in place for a 2.5 mile radius.

Alert level four advises residents to prepare for evacuation, while level five, the highest, orders evacuation, according to the agency.

Mount Asama has been active for thousands of years. The last major eruption took place in September 2004, the agency said.

With 108 active volcanoes, Japan is among the most seismically busy countries in the world. The country lies in the “Ring of Fire” – a series of volcanoes and fault lines that outline the Pacific Ocean.

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