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The Cabinet said Friday a team will be sent next week to Kagoshima and Miyazaki prefectures, which have been affected by the erupting Mount Shinmoe on their border, with an eye to drawing up a specific evacuation plan in case volcanic activity accelerates.

“We need to increase a sense of vigilance, as it is not clear how long the eruptions will continue and how far the damage could spread,” Prime Minister Naoto Kan said in a Cabinet meeting.

“Since there are concerns about damage from falling ash, we need to provide the necessary administrative support to the local governments,” he said.

On Friday morning, Mount Shinmoe in the Kirishima mountain range continued to erupt, spewing columns of smoke to a height of about 3,000 meters.

The Miyazaki Meteorological Observatory called on local residents to stay alert for mudslides as rain was forecast for Friday evening or later.

As there are livestock farmers operating in the town of Takahara in Miyazaki Prefecture at the foot of Mount Shinmoe, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Michihiko Kano said at a news conference Friday the government will listen to the farmers and list necessary support measures.

Since the eruptions first occurred Jan. 19, an estimated 80 million tons of ash have fallen on a wide area, according to a study by the Coordinating Committee for Prediction of Volcanic Eruptions under the Meteorological Agency.

There have already been nine explosive eruptions at the 1,421-meter-high peak on the border of the two prefectures.

“Explosive eruptions of the same level will likely continue for the time being,” an official of the panel said.

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