Volcano erupts on southern Japanese island

AP News
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Posted: May 28, 2015 10:14 PM

TOKYO (AP) — A volcano erupted on a small island in southern Japan on Friday, and authorities told residents to evacuate the island.

Mount Shindake erupted about 10 a.m. (0100 GMT) in spectacular fashion, spewing towering black-gray clouds into the sky.

No injuries had been reported, although the Japan Meteorological Agency reported that pyroclastic flows, dense currents of rock fragments and hot gases, from the volcano had reached the shore to the northwest.

The government was surveying the island by helicopter to assess damage.

Nobuaki Hayashi, a local village chief, said about 100 residents were gathered at a local evacuation facility.

"There was a really loud sound of an explosion, and then black smoke rose, darkening the sky," he told the national broadcaster NHK. "It smells of sulfur."

About 140 people live on Kuchinoerabu island in the Ryukyu archipelago, 50 miles (80 kilometers) southwest of the main southern island of Kyushu. Tourism and fishing are the main activities on the heavily forested, mountainous island, which is a national park.

The Japan Meterological Agency raised the volcano alert level to five, the highest on its scale. Shindake also erupted in August last year for the first time since 1980.

Kuchinoerabu island can be reached only by a once-a-day ferry from Yakushima island, 12 kilometers (about 7 miles) to the east, which has an airport and a population of more than 13,000 people.

Japan, which sits atop the Pacific "Ring of Fire," has dozens of volcanoes and is frequently jolted by earthquakes.

Authorities recently closed part of a popular hot springs about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Tokyo because of fears Mount Hakone, which sits to the southeast of Mount Fuji, might erupt.

The eruption last September of another volcano, Mount Ontake in central Japan, killed 57 people.