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Volcano Evacuation Order Lifted

June 29, 2000

KAMITSUKI, Japan (AP) _ Hundreds of people began to return to their homes on Miyakejima island Thursday as an evacuation order was partially lifted after experts said that the chances of a volcanic eruption were fading.

But mild earthquakes continued to shake the island in the Pacific Ocean, and the evacuation order was maintained in western and northern areas.

Mayor Naoyuki Hirose announced the lifting of the order for the island’s southeastern district of Tsubota following approval by the governor of Tokyo, who helps administer the island even though it is 120 miles south of the city. Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara visited the island Thursday to meet evacuees.

The partial lifting was announced on a public speaker system on the island, relieving some of the nearly 2,000 evacuees who have spent three hot and humid nights at shelters in schools and community centers, said Miyakejima spokesman Satoshi Enomoto.

The evacuation order was issued Monday to about half the 4,000 people living on the island after intensifying earthquakes signaled a possible eruption around Mount Oyama _ a 2,686-foot mountain rising from the center of the island.

The northern district of Kamitsuki is where a large number of evacuees were sheltered.

Seismologists in Tokyo said late Wednesday that magma was flowing away from the island under the seabed, lessening the chance of the volcano spewing lava onto populated areas.

Earthquakes continued, however. Nearly 16,700, most of them too small to be felt, have been recorded since late Monday. The strongest on Thursday registered a magnitude of 5.2.

Mount Oyama has erupted several times in the last 60 years, including in 1983, but the blasts usually came quickly and were over in a couple of days.

No one was killed or injured in the last eruption because residents were evacuated in time. Eleven people died, and 20 were injured in a 1940 eruption.

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