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Japanese Volcano May Be Waking - 2002-06-22


Japanese authorities are watching a volcano about 150 kilometers from Tokyo. There are fears Mount Asama may be waking after a 12-year slumber.

Japan's Meteorological Agency says more than 200 small earthquakes have shaken the area near Mount Asama, indicating that an eruption is possible. The agency is warning people not to go within four kilometers of the mountain. However, there is no order so far to evacuate homes and officials stress they do not believe a major eruption is imminent.

The 2,500 meter volcano is close to the resort town of Karuizawa, a favorite escape from the summer heat of Tokyo for politicians, expatriates and members of the Imperial Family.

Seismologists and vulcanologists have been paying close attention to Mount Asama since last month when the floor of its crater bulged. In recent weeks, plumes of smoke climbing one thousand meters have been seen. The scientists say the temperature inside the crater has hit 180 degrees Celsius.

The volcano's last major eruption came in 1783, killing more than one thousand people and destroying crops throughout the region. Mount Asama took lives again in 1947 when eleven mountaineers were struck and killed by molten rocks. The last minor eruption, 12 years ago, injured nearly a dozen people.

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