Big volcanic eruption in Japan 'in 30 years'

TOKYO • One of Japan's most active volcanoes is due for a major eruption within the next 30 years, according to scientists who have studied a build-up of magma there.

The Sakurajima volcano on Japan's southern Kyushu island poses a "growing threat", researchers at the University of Bristol say, reported BBC News.

A team from the Sakurajima Volcano Research Centre also took part in the research.

Sakurajima's last deadly eruption was in 1914, when 58 people died. The 1,117m-high volcano regularly spews ash and there are many small explosions there each year, the latest eruption being in February.

Closely monitored by the Japanese authorities, it is one of two volcanoes at Level 3 out of five levels in Japan's volcanic warning system, which means that people are warned not to approach it.

Using GPS deformation measurements and 3D computer models, the researchers assessed the build-up beneath Sakurajima volcano and found that the reservoir of magma grows at a significant rate.

Their research showed that 14 million cubic metres of magma accumulate each year, enough to fill London's Wembley Stadium 3.5 times over, according to BBC News.

Based on their findings, the researchers said that it would take 130 years from the volcano's last major eruption for the next one to happen, reported Tech Times.

"It is already 100 years since the 1914 eruption, less than 30 years are left until the next expected big eruption," said Dr Haruhisa Nakamichi, associate professor at the Disaster Prevention Research Institute, Kyoto University.

He added that new evacuation plans have been prepared for the nearby city of Kagoshima which has a population of 600,000, BBC News reported.

Although it is not possible to accurately predict when a volcano would erupt, researchers say their study would help the authorities in Japan and other parts of the world plan for future disasters.

"Being forewarned means we are forearmed and providing essential information for local authorities can potentially help save lives if an eruption was imminent," said the study's lead author, Dr James Hickey.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2016, with the headline Big volcanic eruption in Japan 'in 30 years'. Subscribe