The Pacific “Ring of Fire” is living up to its name.
The 450 or so volcanoes that make up the ring outline have been unusually active this year, sparking evacuations on the Indonesian island of Bali and on the tiny island nation of Vanuatu. Parts of southwestern Japan, meanwhile, have been shaken by a series of earthquakes, unsettling the local population, in an area where the massive Pacific Plate grinds against other plates that form the Earth’s crust, creating a 25,000-mile zone where earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are unusually common.
Three volcanos have either erupted, or are showing signs of an imminent eruption, across the region, according to a roundup published by the Associated Press.
The Shinmoedake volcano in southwestern Japan started erupting Wednesday for the first time in about six years. An ash plume rose 1,700 meters (5,580 feet) from the crater Thursday and ash fell on cities and towns in Miyazaki prefecture. Japanese broadcaster TBS showed students wearing helmets and masks on their way to school at the foot of Shinmoedake. The Japan Meteorological Agency is warning that hot ash and gas clouds known as pyroclastic flows could reach 2 kilometers (1 mile) from the crater, and ash and volcanic rocks are a risk over a wider area depending on wind and elevation. It raised the volcanic alert level from 2 to 3 on a scale of 5. Level 3 warns people to not approach the volcano.
More than 140,000 people fled Mount Agung on the Indonesian resort island of Bali after its alert status was raised to the highest level on Sept. 22.
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