• The Associated Press


In the James Bond version, circa 1967, Mount Shinmoe was a serene, extinct peak with a scenic, lake-filled crater that provided the perfect perch for Agent 007 and his bikini-clad partner to surveil the lair of supervillain Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

In real life, it turns out the volcano doesn’t have a secret rocket base hidden in its depths as it did in “You Only Live Twice.”

It’s also not extinct.

In its biggest series of eruptions in 52 years, Mount Shinmoe burst back to life last week and is wreaking havoc with airline schedules, forcing schools and roads to close and dumping ash and rocks across towns on Kyushu.

On Thursday, the volcano spewed a huge plume 1,500 meters into the air and sent rubble cascading down its forested slopes. Officials say they expect the eruptions to continue, and possibly intensify, for weeks to come.

“We really have no idea how long this is going to go on,” said Tomoharu Konan, a town official in Takaharu, Miyazaki Prefecture. The town lies at the foot of the volcano. “We got a lot of ash in the first several days, and it covered our farms. We will have to make long-term plans for how to deal with this situation.”

To keep the curious out, a danger zone around Shinmoe has been widened to a radius of 4 km from its crater. Local officials said the mountain is remote enough to keep that from being much of an issue — only two small lodges are located in the no-access area.

No significant injuries have been reported since the initial eruption last Wednesday, although a 92-year-old woman reportedly suffered cuts from shattered glass when a window was smashed in a pulse of air from a subsequent eruption.

Disruptions to travel have been a bigger problem.

Dozens of domestic flights in and out of Miyazaki — a city of 365,000 — were grounded last week. Though some flights had been restored, airport officials said ash on the ground and in the air forced more cancellations Thursday. Volcanic ash advisories were in effect for the area, according to the Meteorological Agency.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.