Shinmoedake volcano eruption prompts 1,000 Japanese to seek shelter

Shinmoedake volcano was still spewing ash Monday, five days after it awoke from a 52-year slumber. More than 1,000 residents of southern Japan were evacuated. Experts said the Shinmoedake volcano lava dome was growing larger inside the volcano's crater

By , Associated Press

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    A dome of lava grows larger inside the crater of Mount Shinmoedake on Japan's southernmost main island of Kyushu Monday, Jan. 31, 2011.
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Officials urged more than 1,000 residents to seek safer ground on Monday and expanded a no-access zone around a volcano that has exploded back to life in southern Japan.

The 4,662-foot (1,421-meter) Shinmoedake volcano erupted last week for the first time in 52 years. The volcano is located in a remote part of the Kirishima range on the southern Japan island of Kyushu. No injuries have been reported.

On Monday, five days after it burst back to life, the volcano was still spewing a spectacular plume into the air, sending a blanket of ash out over a wide area and prompting several hundred residents to seek shelter in evacuation centers.

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Officials in the town of Takaharu urged about 1,100 residents to go to evacuation centers because of the danger of debris, ash and landslides. The warning was not mandatory, however, and some residents were returning to their homes instead.

The Meteorological Agency, meanwhile, broadened a no-access danger zone to two miles (three kilometers) from the peak and was planning to send in helicopters to monitor activity near the crater.

Small rocks ejected from the eruptions have broken windows in buildings and cars near Shinmoedake. The eruption has also disrupted train service, closed schools and forced some domestic flight cancelations. Most transportation had been restored by Monday.

Experts said a dome of lava was growing larger inside the volcano's crater, but it was not certain whether the dome would grow enough to spill over the rim and create large flows down the volcano's sides. Avalanches of superheated gas, ash and rock have already been observed.

The Japanese islands are volcanic in origin and dozens of active volcanos continue to erupt with some regularity across the country. In 1991, 43 people died in the eruption of Mount Unzen, also on Kyushu island.

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