Volcano erupts on small island in southern Japan

Residents of a small island in southern Japan are told to evacuate after a volcano erupts

A volcano erupted on a small island in southern Japan on Friday, and authorities ordered residents to evacuate the island.

Mount Shindake erupted about 10 a.m. in spectacular fashion, spewing towering black-gray clouds into the sky.

The Japan Meteorological Agency reported that pyroclastic flows from the volcano had reached the shore to the northwest.

The government was surveying the island by helicopter to assess damage.

The national broadcaster NHK cited local officials as saying that 80 residents had taken refuge in a shelter on the island.

About 140 people live on Kuchinoerabu island in the Ryukyu archipelago, 50 miles (80 kilometers) southwest of the main southern island of Kyushu. Tourism and fishing are the main activities on the heavily forested, mountainous island, which is a national park.

The Japan Meterological Agency raised the volcano alert level to five, the highest on its scale. Shindake also erupted in August last year for the first time since 1980.

Kuchinoerabu island can be reached only by a once-a-day ferry from Yakushima island, 12 kilometers (about 7 miles) to the east, which has an airport and a population of more than 13,000 people.

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