Tokyo, May 29:
Japanese authorities have ordered the evacuation of 137 inhabitants from the island of Kuchinoerabu in south-west Japan after a volcanic eruption in Mount Shindake, public broadcaster NHK reported on Friday.
An initial explosion was registered at 9.59 a.m. after which the Japan Meteorological Agency raised the alert to its highest level, advising evacuation.
Images showed a huge black ash cloud rising to around 9,000 metres.
NHK reported that magma from the volcano reached one of the island’s beaches, without causing injuries.
However, two people, a 72-year-old man with minor burns and an 80-year-old woman were taken by helicopter to the neighbouring island of Yakushima.
Authorities are coordinating the evacuation process via ferry.
It could be months or even years before inhabitants return to the island as was the case for residents of Miyake island where a volcanic eruption in 2000 kept people away from their homes for more than four years.
Airlines advised pilots to take precautions to avoid the smoke cloud and some planes altered flight paths, though no significant delays were reported, according to NHK.
In August 2014, Shindake erupted for the first time in 34 years, causing the Meteorological Agency to raise the alert to level 3.
Access to a part of the island has been closed off since January after a recent series of tremors were attributed to volcanic activity.
In March, the Meteorological Agency detected an increase in the level of sulphur dioxide in the air around Shindake, at about 650 metres.
A volcanic eruption of Mount Shindake on December 24, 1933, caused many deaths when floods of lava buried villages.
Japan sits on the Pacific Ocean’s volcanic ‘Ring of Fire’ and has more than a hundred active and dormant volcanoes. (IANS)