Residents near Japanese volcano urged to evacuate

TOKYO Thu Feb 17, 2011 4:41am EST

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TOKYO (Reuters) - More than 2,500 people living near a volcano that has been spewing ash in southern Japan were advised to evacuate their homes Thursday after heavy rain threatened mudslides of accumulated ash, a local official said.

Shinmoedake began erupting in late January, in its biggest activity in some 300 years. The volcanic activity has disrupted airline flights and blanketed nearby vegetable farms with ash, but there have been no reports of serious injury or deaths.

The Japan Meteorological Agency expected rainfall of more than 4 mm (0.16 inch) per hour to last until Thursday night, an amount that the local government said could cause mudslides.

The official, in the city of Miyakonojo, said 63 people had moved to evacuation centers by midday.

The town of Takaharu, located at the foot of 1,421 meter (4,662 ft) mountain on the southern island of Kyushu, also advised about 250 residents and a business to prepare for evacuation in case it was necessary.

(Reporting by Saika Takano; Editing by Michael Watson)

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