February 2, 2009--Smoke and gases billow from Japan's snowcapped Mount Asama volcano early today. Powdery volcanic ash from the eruption rained down on parts of Tokyo, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) from the volcano. So far no resulting damage or injuries have been reported.
Beginning at 1:51 a.m. local time, the volcano belched out a mile-high (1.6-kilometer-high) plume and continued smoking all day. Chunks of rock from the eruption were found about 3,300 feet (1,000 meters) from the volcano.
"We don't think there will be any stronger eruptions, but we don't see the activity stopping anytime soon, either," Kazuya Kokubo, an official with Japan's Meteorological Agency said.
The eruption was not big enough to disrupt daily life near the volcano, though many people awoke to find their cars covered in a fine layer of powder. National broadcaster NHK showed people in Tokyo lining up for carwashes.
Mount Asama has been active for at least hundreds of years.
Its last major eruption took place in September 2004, spewing enough ash to damage local crops. It frequently spews smaller amounts of ash from its crater.
With 108 active volcanoes, Japan is among the most seismically busy countries in the world. The country lies in the Ring of Fire—a series of volcanoes and fault lines that roughly encircle the Pacific Ocean. (See "Deadly Java Quake Highlights 'Ring of Fire' Dangers" [May 30, 2006].)
—Associated Press in Tokyo
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