Residents flee Japan island amid fears of volcanic eruptions

TOKYO - Two hundred residents boarded boats and fled a small island south of Tokyo on Saturday - the latest exodus amid fears that a ''fairly big'' eruption could spout from a reawakened volcano, a local official said.

With Saturday's departures, almost one-third of Miyake island's 3,850 residents have left for other parts of Japan since Aug. 19, said local official Takashi Hasegawa.

The exodus began a day after Mount Oyama threw up a five-mile column of ash mixed with volcanic rock on Aug. 18. It was the biggest eruption since the 2,686-foot volcano rumbled back to life on July 9.

''People are leaving because there's a possibility of a fairly big eruption,'' Hasegawa said.

He said 1,152 people have fled Miyake island, including 211 children, or about two-thirds of the island's school population. Most have sought refuge in Tokyo, about 120 miles to the north.

Experts speculate that shifts in huge underground pools of magma are responsible for recent volcanic and seismic activity on Miyake, part of a chain of volcanic islands off Tokyo that stretch 335 miles from north to south.

Mount Oyama's last big eruption was in 1983. Five hundred homes were destroyed when lava flowed over its western flank, though timely evacuations prevented any casualties.


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