Small volcanic eruption closes parts of resort near Tokyo

Small volcanic eruption closes parts of resort near Tokyo
Steam rises from the rocky mountain slopes near the hot springs resort of Hakone, Kanagawa prefecture on May 6, 2015.
PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO - A small volcanic eruption at a popular Japanese resort not far from Tokyo on Tuesday prompted authorities to further restrict access to the area, warning of the chance of more eruptions, but there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

The Japan Meteorological Agency confirmed that volcanic ash was emitted from a valley on Mount Hakone, known for its hot springs, which has been belching out unusual amounts of steam in recent months.

"There has been some ash detected near the area of a new steam vent on the mountain," an official at Japan's Meteorological Agency told a news conference. The agency raised the warning level on the mountain to 3 from 2, which expands restrictions on access to a broader area.

"It was an extremely small scale eruption, but there is the chance of a larger one that could affect a wider area," the official said.

Hakone is a resort area about 80 km (50 miles) west of Tokyo known for its hot springs and views of Mount Fuji. More than 21 million people visited in 2014, according to the Hakone town website.

Japan, one of the most seismically active areas on earth, has seen an upturn in earthquakes and small volcanic eruptions over the past several months, including an eruption in late May that required the evacuation of a small island in southern Japan.

Last September, 63 people were killed when a volcano in central Japan erupted suddenly while the peak was crowded with hikers, the country's worst eruption in nearly 90 years.

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