(MENAFN- Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)) A volcano on a southern Japanese island violently erupted on Friday, prompting authorities to urge all the residents to evacuate the island. The explosive eruption of Mount Shindake on Kuchinoerabu Island in Kagoshima Prefecture, about 1,600 kilometers southwest Tokyo, occurred at 9:59 am (0059 GMT), the Japan Meteorological Agency said.
The 626-meter volcano sent smoke and ash 9,000 meters into the air, and a stream of volcanic ash had reached the coastline 2 kilometers from the island, according to the agency. As of noon, the municipality confirmed the safety of all 137 residents, although one person has received burns. The islanders have been urged to flee as the weather agency lifted an alert for the island to the highest level of 5 from 3. It was the first time that the agency issued the level 5 warning since the volcanic alert system was introduced in 2007.
In Tokyo, the central government set up a response team at its crisis management center of the prime minister's office to gather information about the situation. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters that he has instructed relevant personnel to try to their best to ensure the safety of islanders. "A Coast Guard vessel and a Self-Defense Force helicopter are heading to the island," said Abe.
At a press conference, a weather agency official warned of possible eruption of similar size. Mount Shindake erupted last August for the first time since 1980, sending the weather agency to upgrade the eruption-alert level to 3, which imposed limits on climbing the volcano.
According to the agency, Japan currently has 110 active volcanoes. Last September, Mount Ontake in central Japan erupted, killing at least 57 hikers in the country's worst postwar volcanic disaster.
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