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Japan volcano again sends columns of ash in air

13 march 2011, 22:10
Shinmoedake volcano
Shinmoedake volcano
A volcano in southwestern Japan erupted Sunday after nearly two weeks of relative silence, sending ash and rocks up to four kilometers (two and a half miles) into the air, AFP reports quoting a local official as saying.

It was not immediately clear if the eruption was a direct result of the massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake that rocked northern areas Friday, unleashing a fierce tsunami and sparking fears that more than 10,000 may have been killed.

The 1,421-metre (4,689-feet) Shinmoedake volcano in the Kirishima range saw its first major eruption for 52 years in January. There had not been any major activity at the site since March 1.

Authorities have maintained a volcano warning at a level of three out of five, restricting access to the entire mountain.

More than 2,500 people living near a Japanese volcano that started erupting last month were advised Thursday to evacuate their homes as rain threatened mudslides from the accumulated ash.

The city of Miyakonojo in the southern prefecture of Miyazaki issued the advisory as rainfall that started Wednesday topped more than two centimetres (0.8 inches) in the area, local officials said.

But by Thursday afternoon, fewer than 100 people had moved to public shelters in the city, located at the foot of the 1,421-metre (4,689-feet) Shinmoedake volcano in the Kirishima range.

The volcano, which featured in the 1967 James Bond film "You Only Live Twice", continued a series of deafening blasts which began with the start of its first major eruption for 52 years in late January.

In April last year, the eruption of the Eyjafjoell volcano in Iceland dispersed a vast cloud of ash, triggering a huge shutdown of airspace that affected more than 100,000 flights and eight million passengers.

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