MIYAZAKI - Mount Shinmoe in the Kirishima mountain range bordering Kagoshima and Miyazaki prefectures erupted early Wednesday, marking its first such activity in about six years.
The Meteorological Agency raised the warning level for a volcanic eruption to Level 3, restricting entry to the mountain. It warned the volcano might grow more active, as swelling of the mountain was observed.
Volcanic tremors had been intensifying in the area since late September, prompting the agency to raise the warning level to Level 2 on Oct. 5 to restrict entry to areas near the mouth of the volcano. Level 5, the highest alert, urges people to evacuate.
The agency said Wednesday’s eruption occurred at around 5:34 a.m., with the plume rising about 300 meters above the crater.
The government set up a liaison unit at the prime minister’s office to gather information.
A small amount of volcanic ash fell in three cities and the town of Takaharu in Miyazaki, but no injuries or damage have been reported so far, according to local police. In Takaharu, some people walking about used umbrellas for protection from the ash.
Yoshinari Imanishi, 66, a senior official at a local tourism association, was worried about possible negative impacts from the eruption, saying, “We were hit by cancellations of accommodations six years ago. I hope (the eruption) will not affect autumn viewing season.”
The last major eruption of the volcano occurred on Sept. 7, 2011.
According to the agency, up to 100 volcanic earthquakes per day have been observed at Mount Shinmoe since the beginning of this month. Several volcanic tremors — believed to be caused by the movement of magma and hot water underground — have also been observed this month, with many marked by unusually long shaking that can last minutes or hours.
The agency lowered its warning level from 2 to 1 on May 26 after signs that volcanic activity had subsided.
Mount Shinmoe erupted in January 2011, prompting the agency to issue a Level 3 warning. A Level 3 alert bans access to the volcano by hikers, and urges preparations be made for evacuations of individuals who may need special consideration, such as the elderly, people with disabilities and small children.