Volcano Evacuation Order Lifted
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 the chances of a volcanic eruption were fading.
However, as mild earthquakes continued to shake the island in the Pacific Ocean, the evacuation order was maintained in western and southwestern 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 of the evacuation order was announced on a public speaker system, 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 on Miyakejima, all of which is a 2,686-foot volcano.
The northern district of Kamitsuki is where a large number of evacuees were sheltered.
Later Thursday, in what was considered a declaration of safety, seismologists in Tokyo said magma inside the seabed off the island’s west coast has almost stopped moving.
``The level of volcanic activity is declining, and there is almost no chance of eruption that would affect the ground level or the ocean,″ Hitoshi Takeuchi, a seismologist at the government’s Coordinating Committee for the Prediction of Volcanic Eruptions, told a news conference nationally televised on the nation’s semipublic NHK.
Late Wednesday, seismologists said magma was flowing away from the island under the seabed, lessening the chance of the volcano spewing lava onto populated areas.
Takeuchi, however, warned Thursday of continuing earthquakes in the waters off the west coast of the island.
Nearly 18,000, including 1,427 of them strong enough to be felt by humans, have been recorded since late Monday. The strongest on Thursday registered a magnitude of 5.2.
Miyakejima 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.