Stunning Images of Volcanic Eruption on Japan's Kuchinoerabu-jima Island


Eyewitness footage of Mount Shindake erupting on Kuchinoerabu-jima. YouTube screencap from JiJi Press.

Mount Shindake on the isolated Japanese island of Kuchinoerabu-jima erupted suddenly without warning on May 28, forcing all 137 residents of the island to be quickly evacuated.

Residents left the island so quickly that there appears to have been little time to collect belongings, much less take pictures of the eruption to upload to social media.

However, one boy was able to film spectacular first-hand video of the eruption, which was picked up by JiJi, one of Japan's main news wire services:


Video caption: Just before this video was taken, the earth rumbled and the sky suddenly filled with ash as the boy's mother screamed.

The eruption occurred just seconds before this young boy started filming. During the video, he urges his frightened mother to hurry, telling her to forget about the laundry as the volcano has just erupted.

The severity of the eruption meant that most residents escaped with little more than the clothes on their backs:

From Mainichi News footage: As seen from the air above Kuchinoerabu-jima: New eruption – Mainichi News Amidst fears of a new eruption, residents have been evacuated. Images taken from Mainichi News helicopter (video and stills available).

It's unclear if or when Kuchinoberu-jima's residents will be able to return home:

口永良部噴火:避難「年単位」も 牛とイモの島、募る不安

Kuchinoerabu eruption: evacuation of residents could last as long as one year; now an “island of cows and potatoes.” Residents’ unease over fate of their home deepens.

The volcanic eruption has produced some fantastic images that are being shared all over social media.

Kuchinoerabu eruption.

Kuchinoerabu volcanic ash plume from satellite.

Luckily for residents of the large regional center of Kagoshima to the northeast, for the time prevailing winds have sent the ash plume away from the Kyushu mainland:

According to information published by the Japan Meteorological Agency about fallout from the Kuchinoerabu-jima volcanic plume, ash will be carried from the crater by prevailing winds to the southwest.

A number of Kyushu volcanoes are due to erupt at any time, or are already active. This tweet from nearly a year ago highlighted the risk of a volcanic eruption on Kuchinoerabu-jima:

[From image, chart from top to bottom] Kyushu volcanic activity:

  • Kuju (Green)
  • Unzen (Green)
  • Aso (Yellow)
  • Kirishima (Yellow)
  • Sakurajima (Red)
  • Satsuma Iojima (Green)
  • Kuchinoerabu (Red)
  • Suwanose (Yellow)

Volcanic activity: 3 = Red, 2 = Yellow, 1 = Green

Sakurajima (in Kagoshima) and Kuchinoerabu have been added to the list of active volcanoes. The Sakurajima volcano has been experiencing increasing volcanic activity since 2000 and has continuously erupted more than 800 times over the past four years.

While Mount Shindake on Kuchinoerabu-jima is the latest volcano to capture the imagination of people around the world, the nearby city of Kagoshima on the southwestern end of the island of Kyushu has had to deal with frequent eruptions from Sakurajima, a nearby resident volcano whose shape dominates the skyline of the city.

A series of eruptions in the week prior to the Kuchinoerabu eruption had already blanketed the city with ash.

Sakurajima erupts. This is what it looks like tonight. m(_ _)m

Even as Kuchinoberu-jima residents were being evacuated, Sakurajima was blanketing the streets of Kagoshima with ash:

Just when I was getting ready to go home I discovered my beloved wheels had been smothered with volcanic ash.

This university student tweeted:

This is what it looks like on campus thanks to volcanic ash from Sakurajima.

Sakurajima's eruptions may be at best a nuisance for locals, but are quite spectacular for visitors to Kagoshima:

On the last day of our stay at the Kinko Highlands Hotel we took a dip in the outdoor bath. Clouds of ash billowed from Sakurajima. As there was no one else in the bath I'm pretty sure no one minded if we snapped a photo. (*^^*)

The explosive power of Sakurajima is nothing new. Besides causing a tsunami and killing hundreds of people, a major eruption in 1914 transformed Kagoshima Bay, creating a peninsula that joined the former island of Sakurajima and its volcano to Kagoshima and the Kyushu mainland:

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