Sun, Aug 16, 2015 - Page 4 News List

Japan raises eruption warning level

INCREASED RISK:More than 4,000 people were placed on evacuation alert as Mount Sakurajima in Japan’s southwest showed signs of increased volcanic activity


Mount Sakurajima shows signs of increased volcanic activity in Kagoshima, southwestern Japan, yesterday. Mount Sakurajima is one of Japan’s most active volcanoes and erupts almost constantly.

Photo: Reuters

The Japan Meteorological Agency yesterday told thousands of residents near the southern city of Kagoshima to prepare for a possible evacuation as it upgraded an volcanic eruption warning.

Agency officials raised their alert to its second-highest level after picking up increasing seismic activity around Mount Sakurajima, a 1,117m-high volcano which sits just off the coast of Kagoshima, a city of more than 600,000 people.

Activity has spiked since early yesterday morning, they said.

The volcano is also about 50km from a nuclear reactor that was switched on this week, as Japan restarted its nuclear power program following the 2011 Fukushima crisis when a quake-sparked tsunami set off reactor meltdowns at the now-crippled site.

Critics have said the restarted reactor at Sendai was still at risk from natural disasters.

“The possibility for a large-scale eruption has become extremely high for Sakurajima,” the agency said, warning residents to exercise “strict caution” and prepare for a possible evacuation.

The warning applies to a part of the island, which is home to more than 4,000 people.

The last major eruption at Sakurajima — a popular tourist attraction — was in 2013, when it spewed ash as far as Kagoshima and sent rocks flying into populated areas, causing damage but no major injuries.

There are scores of active volcanoes in Japan, which sits on the so-called “Ring of Fire,” where a large proportion of the world’s quakes and eruptions are recorded.

In June, search teams returned to the peak of Mount Ontake in central Nagano Prefecture for the first time in eight months to look for the bodies of six climbers still missing after an eruption that killed dozens.

The shock eruption was Japan’s deadliest for almost 90 years, leaving an estimated 63 people dead, many of their bodies at least partially entombed in volcanic sludge.

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