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Mt Fuji may be getting ready to blow, scientists say


Buildings in Tokyo have to be built to strict regulations to withstand earthquakes, but a large tremor could still cause serious damage.


Kazuhiro Nogi

Pressure is building in the magma chamber that lies deep within Japan's Mt Fuji - and some volcano experts are worried. 

Kyodo News reports that Mt Fuji's magma chamber is under pressure as a result of massively destructive 2011 earthquakes, and it's not impossible that it could erupt.

As Mt Fuji is only 62 miles southwest of Tokyo - possibly the largest city in the world - an eruption could potentially lump yet another disaster on recovering Japan. 

Earthquake "swarms" have also been recorded relatively recently at the base of Mt Fuji, according to the Bulletin of Volcanology, indicating that change may be afoot in the volcano's magma systems.

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However, it's a bit early to panic: building pressure in a volcano's magma chamber is not the only factor causing volcanic eruptions, says UPI News. Further, Japanese scientists have become rather skilled at predicting volcanic eruptions, out of extremely practical necessity. 

Impending eruption isn't the only potential danger to one of Japan's most enduring landscapes. In May, scientists discovered an as-yet-unknown fault under Mt Fuji, which could cause parts of the mountain to collapse if it shifts, according to AFP. 

Standing 3,776 meters high, Mt Fuji is an iconic symbol in Japanese art, although volcano-prone Japan is well aware of its potential destructive power. 

Mt Fuji last erupted in 1707, in an event that has by no means fallen out of the collective Japanese memory.

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This eruption, known as the Hoei eruption to scientists, was violent and produced a large quantity of pyroclastic fall, says Naomichi Miyaji of Nihon University. It's likely that this earlier eruption was sparked by earthquakes, which set Mt Fuji rumbling into action. 

Although no one was killed directly in the 1707 eruption, many people eventually died of starvation as their farm fields were covered in ash, says Miyaji. 

The most recent major eruption in Japan occurred in January 2011, when Mt Kirishima erupted on the island of Kyushu in the worst eruption in 50 years.