Volcano erupts in southern Japan

Volcano erupts in southern Japan

A video grab from the Japan Meteorological Agency's live camera image shows an eruption of Kuc
A video grab from the Japan Meteorological Agency's live camera image shows an eruption of Kuchinoerabu Island in Yakushima town, Kagoshima prefecture, southwestern Japan, January 17, 2019. Japan Meteorological Agency/Handout via REUTERS

TOKYO: A volcano erupted on a remote island in southern Japan on Thursday (Jan 17), the meteorological agency said, but the warning level was kept below the scale requiring evacuation. 

Public broadcaster NHK said there were no reports of injuries or damage yet from the eruption of the volcano on Kuchinoerabu island in the far south of Japan.

"There have been eruptions there since last year but we sent an alert out (this morning) for this latest eruption as it will have a wider impact," said Jun Fujimatsu, an official at the meteorological agency's volcanic activity division.

"We have maintained a level three warning, which means a ban on entering the volcano area," he told AFP.

"There are several craters at the volcano ... The danger zone is two kilometres from the Shindake crater," he added.

"We do not think the latest eruption would engulf the entire island."

A local official said there had been no evacuations on the island, which is home to just 109 people. However, preparations were being made in case it became necessary to move people, some of whom are elderly and frail, the official added.

A video grab from the Japan Meteorological Agency's live camera image shows an eruption of Kuc
A video grab from the Japan Meteorological Agency's live camera image shows an eruption of Kuchinoerabu Island in Yakushima town, Kagoshima prefecture, southwestern Japan, January 17, 2019. Japan Meteorological Agency/Handout via REUTERS

The Japan Meteorological Agency said the volcano, roughly 1,000km southwest of Tokyo, erupted at 9.20am. Live images showed thick black smoke billowing out of the mountain.

The eruption had released pyroclastic flows, or flows of super-heated ash and gas, Kyodo News said, but the flows had not reached residential areas.

"We heard a huge explosion and there was shaking like an earthquake," a resident told NHK.

Government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said the plume of smoke and ash from the eruption rose 6,000 metres.

"But there is no impact on the community and no injury or damage has been reported," he told reporters.

The volcano has at times prompted the agency to lift its warnings to its highest level of five, but there was no immediate indication it planned to raise the level after the morning eruption.

The same peak erupted explosively in 2015, sending ash and smoke thousands of metres into the sky and releasing potentially deadly pyroclastic flows that reached the sea. 

The island's entire population was evacuated at the time but eventually returned. Some 100 people now live there.

Japan has 110 active volcanoes and monitors 47 constantly.

Source: Reuters/AFP/aa

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