FUKUOKA – Mount Aso in Kumamoto Prefecture is experiencing its first magmatic eruption in 21 years, the Metrological Agency’s regional headquarters in Fukuoka announced Thursday.
The nation’s largest active volcano has been spewing ash since Tuesday. The last magmatic eruption was recorded in February 1993.
The agency said its scientists have confirmed via helicopter that the smoke and fumes spewed by the volcano formed a 1,500-meter-high column at around 11:30 a.m. Thursday. Scoria, which are porous, dark volcanic rocks formed when gases are released from magma, have also been observed, a sign that a magmatic eruption is taking place.
The scientists added that, with the help of a special camera, they have captured a red glow on film created by hot lava lighting up plumes of smoke near the crater.
Volcanic ash and smoke reached the city of Kumamoto on Thursday, more than 40 km from the craters, causing crop damage. Since the eruption is expected to continue, the local communities are worried the damage could worsen.
In the town of Takamori, Kumamoto Prefecture, officials inspected fields of cabbage and “hakusai” Chinese cabbage.
“It seems that it’s the first time in decades the farmers in our city have suffered such a loss,” one of them said.
Meanwhile, in the city of Aso, crops of “takana,” or leaf mustard, the region’s specialty, were also damaged by ash.
Tourists have been banned from entering areas within a kilometer of the crater and the city plans to put up signboards warning climbers about ash risks along the mountain’s trails.
“Depending on the wind conditions, the ash and rocks spewed from the volcano may affect tourists,” warned Aso Mayor Yoshioki Sato during a press conference Thursday.
Thursday’s eruption forced the cancelation of several flights connecting Kumamoto with Tokyo, Aichi and Osaka due to low visibility.
Mount Aso has erupted numerous times between 1945 and 1993, and volcanic activity has often continued for months at a time or even longer.
The eruptions in 1953, 1958 and 1979 were deadly. The 1979 eruption killed three people and injured 11 when rocks flung out by the volcano hit a group of climbers near the summit.