June 12, 2006

More eruptions likely at southern Japan volcano

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese vulcanologists have warned of
more eruptions at a volcano on the southern island of Kyushu,
as volcanic activity has been intensifying at one of its

The Meteorological Agency has issued a bulletin warning of
a high possibility of eruptions at the Showa vent, one of the
craters on Sakurajima on the southern tip of Japan's southern
island of Kyushu, about 1,000 km (600 miles) southwest of

The agency upgraded the 1,000 meter (3,200 foot) high
volcano at Sakurajima to level three, or "active," from two, or
"relatively moderate," on its volcanic activity scale of six.

The Showa crater had a minor eruption on Wednesday, spewing
smoke hundreds of meters (yards) into the air.

There was a separate eruption at the Minamidake peak on
Sakurajima on Monday, spouting a column of smoke about 2,000
meters into the air.

Minamidake has frequently erupted, showering nearby fields
with ash.

The agency last issued a similar bulletin for the active
volcano in October 2000.

Sakurajima was a 77 square-kilometer (30 square-mile)
island until a violent eruption in 1914 filled in the strait
separating it from Kyushu.

Japan's biggest volcanic disaster on record was in 1792
when 15,000 people died from a mud slide and tidal wave that
engulfed villages around Mount Unzen, also in Kyushu.

Two other eruptions in the late 18th century each killed
more than 1,000 people. The biggest loss of life this century
was in 1926 when Mount Tokachi erupted on northern Hokkaido
island, killing 144 people.

In June 1991, a major eruption on Mount Unzen killed about
40 people.