Volcano Eruption Forces Evacuation of Southern Japanese Island

Shindake Volcano
In this aerial image, Mount Shindake is seen spewing ash on Kuchinoerabu Island in Yakushima, Japan, on May 29. Source: The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images

Japan ordered the complete evacuation of an island off its southern prefecture of Kagoshima on Friday, after the Shindake volcano erupted for the second time in 10 months.

Public broadcaster NHK showed clouds of dust and rock exploding from the peak on Kuchinoerabu Jima, which lies about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) southwest of Tokyo. Ash from the eruption billowed as high as 9,000 meters and rocks flew as far as the island’s coast, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

There have been no reports of casualties, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said. The evacuation included 141 residents and visitors, Kyodo News said, citing prefectural officials. The prime minister’s office said it set up a crisis center to deal with the eruption, while Kyodo reported that the government would hold an emergency meeting at 11 a.m.

The volcano erupted Aug. 3 last year for the first time since 1980, according to a report three months ago by the Asahi newspaper, which cited Kyoto University researchers as detecting an increase in Shindake’s activity.

Japan lies on the so-called “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines surrounding the Pacific Basin, and it sits at the three-way meeting point of the North American, Eurasian and Philippine Sea tectonic plates.

Shindake is one of more than 100 active volcanoes in Japan, according to the website www.volcanodiscovery.com. About 50 people, mostly hikers, were killed in an eruption at Mount Ontake in Nagano in September last year.

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