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Eruption of Shinmoedake

February 4, 2011

On January 26th, Shinmoedake, one of the volcanoes nearby, erupted for the first time in over fifty years.  We often get some ash from the frequent eruptions of Sakurajima, but that is nothing compared with the amount of ash that was dumped on us for a day-and-a-half during the first eruption of Shinmoedake.  I’ve often gone driving up in the Kirishima area, and I’ve even hiked one of the neighboring peaks a couple of times.  Even though the mountains are just covered in hot springs, it never really occurred to me that they might erupt some day.  There have been frequent eruptions every day since it first erupted, and the city has been busy cleaning up all the ash.  So far, it’s not too dangerous here.  It’s just really messy.  Miyuki and I spent part of the weekend cleaning up some of the ash from the parking lot out in front of Miyuki’s school, and we filled 36 bags in a little over two hours.  Some of the residents of Takaharu, a town north of here that’s pretty close to the volcano, have been evacuated to refugee shelters,  but life is going on pretty much as normal here.  The volcano has already dumped more than nine times as much ash as it did when it erupted fifty years ago.  The lava dome on the top has expanded to 600m across.  Some windows of buildings in the towns closer to the volcano have been broken by the sound waves caused by the explosive eruptions.  I learned a new word in English after watching a Japanese news report and trying to figure out a Japanese word – ultrasound.  It has been raining rocks in the areas closer to the volcano and now they’re worried that we may get some serious mudslides if it rains.  When Shinmoedake erupted 52 years ago, the eruptions continued off and on for almost a year-and-a-half.  They’re predicting that this current activity may go on for a similar period.  Not really looking forward to cleaning up ash for a year-and-a-half, but it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience so I might as well enjoy it however I can.  The clouds of rising ash are actually quite beautiful, but things get pretty drab when it all falls down.  The volcanic lightning is pretty cool, too.  If you want to see any of this, try searching for YouTube videos of Shimoedake.  There are some pretty amazing pictures and videos out there.  Anyway, here are a few pictures from when the ash was first falling and then some pictures of the cleanup.  The majority of these pictures were taken with my cell phone.

My car from a couple of days later.  It’s still filthy.

Cleaning up some ash.

Bags of ash at my neighborhood non-burnable rubbish collection point.

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