• Kyodo

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Steam bursts at the hot spring district of Mount Hakone were described as weaker by the Meteorological Agency on Thursday, the first report of a decline in activity since the volcanic alert for the mountain was raised early last month.

But the agency noted that volcanic activity at the hot springs resort remains high as crustal deformation continues.

Before Thursday’s on-the-spot inspection, the agency had — since May 6 when it raised the alert from 1, or “normal,” to 2, a level advising regulated entries to areas around the volcanic vent — persistently viewed steam bursts as active in Owakudani district.

Steam bursts and sounds in Owakudani on Thursday were weaker than on May 21, when the agency conducted the previous inspection, the agency said.

The number of daily volcanic earthquakes on the mountain stood at seven on Tuesday and 12 on Wednesday, far less than the more than 400 in mid-May, it said. Thursday’s number until 3 p.m. came to four.

Mayor Nobuo Yamaguchi of Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture, expressed concern over the higher alert level being maintained as it could affect tourism at the hot springs resort, with Owakudani alone drawing 3 million visitors a year.

Under the alert level, an evacuation order has been in effect for Owakudani and its vicinity.