Japanese Volcano Erupts, Residents Flee

Japanese Volcano Erupts, Residents FleeJapanese Volcano Erupts, Residents Flee

A volcano erupted on a small island in southern Japan on Friday, and authorities ordered residents to evacuate the island.

Mount Shindake on the Japanese island of Kuchinoerabu erupted about 10 a.m. local time in spectacular fashion, spewing towering black-gray clouds into the sky, AP reported.

Residents, many elderly and carrying boxes and bags, fled by boat to the closest neighboring island of Yakushima, an hour away, where they disembarked shortly before sunset.

Smoke shot more than 9,000 meters into the sky and officials warned of more big eruptions and urged “extreme caution.”

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 is about 130 km south of Japan’s southernmost main island of Kyushu, and 1,000 km southwest of Tokyo. About 140 people live on the island.

The tiny island can be reached only by a once-a-day ferry from Yakushima Island, 12 km to the east, which has an airport and a population of more than 13,000 people.

All Nippon Airways said it would divert some flights as a precaution but it did not cancel any. Japan Airlines said it did not have any plans to change flights.

Japan is one of the world’s most seismically active countries and there has been an upsurge in volcanic activity in recent weeks, which volcanologists said may be linked to the big 2011 earthquake that set off a tsunami that killed nearly 20,000 people.

In 2014, 63 people were killed when Mount Ontake in central Japan erupted while packed with hikers.