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Page last updated at 06:52 GMT, Monday, 2 February 2009

Volcano erupts close to Tokyo

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Smoke spews from the snow-capped peak

Japan's Mount Asama volcano has erupted, spewing smoke almost 2km (1.3 miles) into the air and causing ash to drift over parts of the capital, Tokyo.

There were no reports of injuries or damage in the sparsely populated area around the mountain, 145km north-west of Tokyo.

Chunks of rock from the explosion were found about 1km from the volcano.

Residents living within a 4km radius of the mountain have been urged to be cautious.

Volcanic ash fell on nearby areas as well as parts of Tokyo, Japan's meteorological agency said.

TV reports showed neighbourhoods sprinkled with white flakes.

Mount Asama is 2,568m (8,425 ft) high, with snow-covered peaks. No lava flows could be seen.

The last major eruption of Mount Asama took place in September 2004, when it spewed ash and rock as far as 200km away.

A huge eruption in 1783 caused widespread damage and killed about 1,500 people.

With 108 active volcanoes, Japan is among the most seismically busy countries in the world.

The country lies in the so-called Ring of Fire - a series of volcanoes and faultlines that outline the Pacific Ocean.

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