Kyushu’s Shinmoedake rumbles anew with explosive eruption

Reuters, Kyodo

A volcano which was featured in the 1967 James Bond movie “You Only Live Twice” shot smoke and ash thousands of meters into the sky Tuesday, prompting the cancellation of flights to and from a nearby airport. The eruption is likely to continue for some time.

It was the first time in about seven years such explosive activity occurred at the 1,421-meter-high volcano straddling Kagoshima and Miyazaki prefectures, according to the Meteorological Agency. No injuries were reported, local authorities said.

Shinmoedake, located in a largely rural area some 985 km from Tokyo in Kyushu, had been erupting on a smaller scale since March 1. At the time, only access to the peak was restricted.

Due to the recent activity, officials restricted access to the entire mountain, and the danger zone may be expanded Thursday to a 3 kilometer radius from the crater.

Television footage showed smoke and ash billowing high into the sky, with lava visible deep inside. NHK said the smoke and ash had risen as far as 3,650 meters.

“The mountain has been erupting for a while, but this is the strongest day yet,” said an official at the Meteorological Agency. “This will go on for a while.”

Some 40 flights were cancelled for Tuesday.

Japan has 110 active volcanoes and monitors 47 of them around the clock. In September 2014, 63 people were killed on Mount Ontake, the worst volcano-related death toll in the country in nearly 90 years.

In January, a member of the Self-Defense Forces was struck and killed when rocks from a volcanic eruption rained down on skiers at a mountain resort in central Japan.