Japan's Sakurajima Volcano Is Gearing Up For Major Eruption

Japan's Sakurajima Volcano Is Gearing Up For Major Eruption

Japan's Sakurajima volcano is gearing up for its first major eruption in over 100 years - with potentially deadly consequences. One of Japan's most active volcanoes will erupt very soon, researchers who have been studying a build-up of magma have said - with potentially devastating consequences.

The University of Bristol warned in its latest report that Japan's Sakurajima volcano, which is just 50 km (31 miles) from a nuclear reactor, is showing signs of increased activity.

The mountain on the southern island of Kyush is one of Japan's most active volcanoes, and erupts almost constantly.

However, the researchers said a much larger eruption is due to occur within the next 30 years after research showed 14 million cubic metres of magma is accumulating beneath the volcano every year - enough to fill London's Wembley Stadium 3.5 times over.

Sakurajima's last deadly eruption was in 1914, when 58 people died.

It sits with more than a hundred other volcanoes in the Japanese archipelago, which sits on the Pacific "Ring of fire" - a horseshoe-shaped band of fault lines and volcanoes around the edges of the Pacific Ocean.

Sakurajima is said to be particularly dangerous as it still very dormant. It regularly spews ash and there are many small explosions there each year, with the latest eruption taking place in February.

It is closely monitored by Japanese authorities, and is one of two volcanoes at Level 3 out of 5 levels on Japan's volcanic warning system, which means that people are warned not to approach it.

Bristol University and the Sakurajima Volcano Research Centre published its latest report on the activity of the volcano on Tuesday.

Making assessments based on new ways of studying and modelling the volcano's magma reservoir, the scientists revealed the rate at which the magma is accumulating beneath the volcano is faster than it can be expelled in its regular smaller eruptions.

This has lead them to believe that a major eruption is likely in the next 30 years.

"We know that being forewarned means we are forearmed and providing essential information for local authorities can potentially help save lives if an eruption was imminent," said Dr Hickey.

However, there's another, much bigger worry. Japan's Sendai nuclear plant lies just 50 km from Sakurajima.

Critics have long pointed out that the plant is also located near five giant calderas - crater-like depressions formed by past eruptions - with the closest one some 40 km away.

Still, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has said the chance of major volcanic activity during the lifespan of the Sendai plant is negligible.

Nevertheless, an associate professor at Kyoto University said new evacuation plans have already been prepared.

"It is already passed by 100 years since the 1914 eruption, less than 30 years is left until a next expected big eruption," said Dr Haruhisa Nakamichi, Associate Professor at the Disaster Prevention Research Institute, Kyoto University.

"Kagoshima city office has prepared a new evacuation plan from Sakurajima."