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Volcano erupts in southern Japan as over 100 evacuated

Eyewitnesses said Friday’s eruption took them by surprise and caused a panic.

By Elizabeth Shim
Volcano erupts in southern Japan as over 100 evacuated
Clouds of ash and smoke reached as high as 5.6 miles on Friday after Mount Shindake's sudden eruption. Photo by EPA/Yonhap

KAGOSHIMA, Japan, May 29 (UPI) -- A massive volcano near the southern Japanese island of Kyushu erupted in clouds of ash and smoke that reached as high as 5.6 miles on Friday.

Mount Shindake on Kuchinoerabu Island, located about 620 miles southwest of Tokyo, erupted for the second time in ten months, Bloomberg reported.

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Japan quickly ordered an evacuation of more than a hundred residents from the volcanic island. All 137 were relocated to safety, according to Kyodo and the Japan Times. One man in his seventies suffered a forehead burn but was not critically injured.

The man and scores of other residents were taken by ferry, coast guard ship and helicopter to adjacent Yakushima Island – as a weather agency warned a second eruption could pose a threat to the island.

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The office of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe established a response team at its crisis management center and the Japan Coast Guard sent a patrol ship to pick up residents.

Eyewitnesses said Friday's eruption took them by surprise and caused a panic that caused some to run with just a few amenities in hand.

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A 64-year-old inn owner said she was in her garden when she heard a loud boom, then saw a "gigantic plume" rising.

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"I thought I'd be dead if I got caught in the cloud," she said.

The woman said Friday's eruption was louder than ten months ago, when the volcano erupted on Aug. 3 for the first time since 1980, according to Kyoto University researchers.

Since the 2000s, Japan has experienced a spike in volcanic quakes and tremors.

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