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Seaside Resort Near Tokyo Rocked By Series of Quakes

October 5, 1995

ITO, Japan (AP) _ Tourists stayed away, but television crews swarmed the streets of this seaside resort Thursday just in case all the shaking of the last six days culminates with a Bigger One.

More than 8,400 quakes, 140 of them strong enough to be felt, have jolted this city 60 miles south of Tokyo, since last Friday.

Two of the strongest temblors struck early Thursday, prompting even residents who had been taking the seismic activity in stride to prepare for the possibility of a major quake.

``I know it sounds weird, but you just get used to it,″ said Hideko Satoh, 40. ``About half the time it feels like the end of the world could be right around the corner. The other half of the time I don’t even think about it.″

Following quakes Thursday with magnitudes of 3.8 and 4.1, Satoh said she decided to follow the example of neighbors and tape over window panes and secure furniture.

Officials have expressed alarm that the increasing undersea volcanic activity that has triggered the temblors could be the early rumblings of a major quake.

``People are living with one eye on their television, waiting for an alert,″ said Tokuji Tabata of the mayor’s office. ``We’re all naturally a bit nervous.″

A similar series of earthquakes near Ito six years ago culminated in undersea volcanic eruptions that blanketed nearby waters with steaming black clouds of volcanic ash. Some of those tremors were felt in Tokyo, where it triggered landslides and injured 18.

This time, many residents are fretting over the lost business caused by the series of quakes. Located near the tip of the Izu Peninsula, Ito’s hot springs and scenic surroundings attract more than 8 million tourists each year, generating more than 85 percent of the area’s income.

On Thursday, souvenir shops were empty and in some, clerks had little more to do than idly dust off displays.

``We’ve had massive tourist cancellations,″ said Tadashi Makino, director of the Ito Tourist Association. ``Even if the quakes stop tomorrow, we’ll be faced with some tough economic times and an uphill PR battle to get the tourists back.″

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