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Eruption makes 'snow' fall in Tokyo

A VOLCANO near Tokyo erupted yesterday, shooting up billowing smoke and showering parts of the capital with a fine ash that sent some city residents to the car wash and left others puzzled over the white powder they initially mistook for snow.

Mount Asama erupted in the early hours, belching out a plume that rose about 1.6 kilometers high, Japan's Meteorological Agency said.

There were no reports of injuries or damage from the eruption of the volcano, 145 kilometers northwest of Tokyo. It last erupted in August 2008, causing no major damage.

Chunks of rock from the explosion were found about 1,000 meters away from the volcano. Ash was detected over a wide area, including central Tokyo and as far as eastern Chiba.

In Tokyo's western district of Fussa, the local government office was flooded with calls from residents asking about "the mysterious white powder" falling from the sky and fire departments fielded calls from people afraid the ash was from a nearby blaze.

In the town of Karuizawa, southeast of the volcano, the ash was thick enough to obscure road markings in some areas.

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 to get their cars washed or wiping the ash from their windows, with some drivers saying they first thought it was snow.

In Tachikawa, a district in northwestern Tokyo, some farming areas were coated with ash.

"Because it's February and not harvesting season, there was no real damage to any crops," said Shoichi Matsumoto, a local official.

In Tsumagoi, a small resort town on the volcano, residents went about their business as usual. Travelers planning vacations to the area had called to inquire, but no one canceled, said a tourist association spokesman.


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