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Strong Quakes Hit Japan Islands

August 18, 2000

TOKYO (AP) _ Three strong earthquakes and a volcanic eruption rocked Tokyo and several nearby islands Friday, injuring at least one person and causing minor damage from falling rocks.

The first earthquake, with a preliminary magnitude of 4.0, hit at 4:53 a.m. and was centered near Tokyo, about 25 miles below the ground. A 62-year-old woman broke her shoulder in a fall, said Tokyo Fire Department spokesman Keita Kaneko.

That quake was followed by two more, the first with a preliminary magnitude of 6.0, centered near the Izu island chain off Tokyo’s coast. A second quake with a magnitude of 4.9 hit two hours later.

The islands have been rocked recently by daily quakes and several eruptions of Mount Oyama, including a relatively large one Friday afternoon that sent a gray and white plume of smoke and ash billowing 15,000 feet into the sky.

There were no immediate reports of injuries from the two Izu quakes, but falling rocks damaged two cars on Kozushima, about 105 miles south of Tokyo, said a local official, Yoshiyuki Umeda.

On nearby Niijima island, several mudslides were reported on roads and in mountain areas, said Ryuji Okada, an official there.

Mount Oyama, which is located on Miyake, one of the largest of the Izu islands, erupted Friday for the fifth time in little more than a month. The plume was the largest it has spewed since its reawakening.

Local residents were forced to seek refuge Friday evening for the second time in less than two weeks. About 2,220 of the island’s 4,000 residents were evacuated to schools and other community shelters, a municipal official said.

Some 634 islanders were ordered from their homes after an eruption last week, but the evacuation was ended later that day.

Since late June, Miyake and other nearby islands have been jolted by tens of thousands of earthquakes. On July 1, a man was killed by a landslide following an earthquake on Kozushima.

Japan, one of the world’s most seismically active countries, has been jolted by a series of earthquakes and the eruptions of three different volcanoes in recent months. The Meteorological Agency said the Tokyo quake was not related to the Izu quakes.

Though injuries and damage have been light, the continuing activity is beginning to fray nerves and is eating into islanders’ income. Summer tourism and fishing are the main sources of income on most of the islands.