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Japan's 2011 Earthquake May Have Left its Volcanoes Shaken

Oct 17, 2014 01:21 PM EDT

Japanese mountain ranges have grown more dangerous in recent years, according to local experts. That's because the massive 2011 earthquake and tsunami event that inflicted significant damage on residential areas and the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant may have also left a good number of volcanoes shaken and ready to pop.

Past research has shown that some Japanese ecosystems are still recovering from the Fukushima Daiichi radiation leak that followed the 2011 quake. Now an expert from the University of Tokyo is saying the 9.0-magnitude quake also left the island's volcanoes in an unsettled state.

"The 2011 quake convulsed all of underground Japan quite sharply, and due to that influence Japan's volcanoes may also become much more active," volcanologist Toshitsugu Fujii told local media Friday, via Reuters.

"It has been much too quiet here over the last century," he added, "so we can reasonably expect that there will be a number of large eruptions in the near future."

And that leaves one wondering exactly what Fujii considers a "large" eruption.

Just last month, Japanese volcano Mount Ontake unexpectedly erupted, trapping hikers and fall-foliage sightseers around its summit. Initially, well over 250 people were caught in the rain of ash and fiery stone, but officials believed that only one death and 30 injuries resulted from the incident.

However, once the ash cleared in the days following the eruption, escalated search-and-rescue efforts revealed a stunning 56 deaths in all - most from asphyxiation - exceeding even the death toll of a 1980 eruption of Mount St Helens, a particularly infamous volcano in the United States. (Scroll to read on...)

The expert told reporters that he is particularly worried about Japan's iconic Mount Fuji. The more than 12,000-foot-tall volcano used to erupt roughly every 30 years, but has been silent since its last eruption in 1707.

"The last eruption was 300 years ago, 10 times longer than before," Fujii warned. "So it could erupt at any time."

The volcano has been known to rain stone and up to four inches of ash on parts of nearby Tokyo city. If this is to happen again, experts urge officials to ensure the city is adequately prepared.

Following the Ontake incident, the Japan Meteorological Agency has also recently released new reports and valuable information for mountaineers who still plan to hike the country's increasingly dangerous summits.

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