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Mount Mihara Subsides, Another Volcano Erupts

November 23, 1986

TOKYO (AP) _ Mount Mihara subsided Sunday after a fiery eruption that forced 11,000 people to flee a small island, but hundreds of miles away another volcano erupted and sent a big rock flying into a hotel, injuring five people.

Officials said Mount Sakurajima hurled a rock 6 1/2 feet in diameter into a one-story concrete hotel just outside Sakurajima, about 620 miles southwest of Tokyo.

Officials of the Central Meteorological Agency said Mount Sakurajima has erupted often since 1955, including 474 eruptions last year. Police said 15 people were in the hotel at the time and two were seriously hurt.

Officials said the eruption was not linked with that of Mount Mihara, about 540 miles away on Oshima Island. Oshima is 70 miles south of Tokyo.

One Central Meteorological Agency official said about 30 gas explosions were recorded Sunday morning in the craters of Mount Mihara, compared with countless explosions Saturday, but that none was observed Sunday afternoon.

Only light smoke was seen coming from the mountain, but streams of yellow water were observed on the island’s eastern and southern sides, indicating possible underwater eruptions, the official said.

He spoke on condition of anonymity.

The volcano, which had been quiet for 12 years, erupted twice last week. The second eruption, on Friday, sent lava streaming toward Oshima Island’s main town and forced the evacuation of more than 11,000 people, including tourists and nearly all 10,300 residents.

The agency official said 54 earthquakes had been counted on the island on Sunday by 8 p.m. The strongest measured 4 on the Richter scale.

On Saturday, 92 quakes were recorded, with the strongest 6.1 on the Richter scale, he said.

The Richter scale is a gauge of the energy released by an earthquake, as measured by the ground motion recorded on a seismograph. A quake measuring 6 is capable of causing serious damage.

Hidehiro Kato, an official of the Tokyo Fire Department, said lava had come within 165 yards of the town of Motomachi, but had almost stopped.

However, Professor Shigeo Aramaki of Tokyo University’s Seismic Research Institute said, ″Volcanic activity has by no means ended.″

Friday’s eruption was on the island’s north side, but Aramaki said in an interview with the Japan Broadcasting Corp., ″We are worried about the south side.″

Tokyo police said more than 400 people still were on the island, including more than 200 police and 130 journalists.

A broadcast from the island said 11 residents stayed on to take care of their cows and chickens.

″These animals fed me for decades. How can I leave them?″ one ranch owner, who did not give his name, said in a broadcast interview.

The Japan Broadcasting Corp. quoted officials as saying many of the evacuated islanders were worried about pets that had gone hungry since the evacuation. It said the Tokyo Metropolitan government had sent a 21-member team to Oshima to feed about 800 cattle and other animals.

The radio also said police and local officials were turning off bottled gas tanks outside houses and going into some houses where residents reported leaving electric appliances turned on.

Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone on Sunday visited a downtown Tokyo sports center where nearly 2,000 evacuees were taken.

″Luckily we were able to take all of you out in a very short time,″ he told the islanders sitting on the gymnasium floor.

Officials at the shelter have said that evacuees may have to wait at a week to 10 days before returning to Oshima.

Some refugees have been taken in by relatives and friends but many remain in gyms, schools and other relief centers in Tokyo and nearby.

Update hourly