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Volcano erupts in southwestern Japan; no injuries reported

Smoke rises from the Shindake volcano on Kuchinoerabu Island on the morning of Jan. 17, 2019. (Mainichi)

A volcano on an island in the southwestern Japan prefecture of Kagoshima erupted on Jan. 17, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said.

The eruption on Kuchinoerabu Island in the prefecture occurred at 9:19 a.m. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries. The agency has set its five-point volcanic alert level for Mount Shindake at 3 (do not approach the volcano).

Large volcanic rocks were observed to have fallen about 1 kilometer away from the crater, the agency said. Pyroclastic flows also traveled down about 1.5 kilometers southwest and northwest of the crater, but had not reached the local Maeda settlement, the agency said. According to the Yakushima Municipal Government, which has jurisdiction over Kuchinoerabu, there were 108 people living in 70 households on the island as of the end of November 2018. There are also construction workers and tourists on the island.

Local fisherman Toshiyuki Goto, 73, who saw the eruption, commented, "I heard an explosion and when I went outside, black smoke was rising up and I saw a pyroclastic flow." Another 44-year-old resident, Naoto Koga, commented, "In the moments after the eruption it was as if the ash was closing in, and I thought trouble was in store."

A plume of smoke rose 500 meters after the eruption and entered the clouds, the agency said, adding that the eruption was continuing.

The agency warned people to be on the alert against volcanic rocks and pyroclastic flows within a 2-kilometer radius of the Mount Shindake volcano crater. It added that small rocks and volcanic ash could be carried a long way downwind of the volcano.

Mount Shindake previously erupted explosively on Dec. 18 last year. Its volcanic activity in 2015 forced the evacuation of residents from the island.

(Japanese original by Hayato Jojima, Kumamoto Bureau, Soichiro Hayashi, Kagoshima Bureau, and Emi Aoki, Kyushu News Department)

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