Japan's Sakurajima volcano could be close to major eruption for the first time in a century

The deadly eruption of 1914 killed 58 people in a city dubbed the 'Naples of the Eastern World'

Samuel Osborne
Thursday 15 September 2016 12:38
Undated handout photo issued by the University of Exeter of Sakurajima volcano
Undated handout photo issued by the University of Exeter of Sakurajima volcano

One of Japan's most active volcanoes could be close to a major violent eruption, research suggests.

A team of experts mapped the natural "plumbing system" of Sakurajima volcano, on the south-west tip of Kyushu, Japan, to discover a substantial growing magma reserve.

The build-up of magma inside the volcano could see a repeat of its deadly eruption of 1914, which killed 58 people in the coastal city of Kagoshima, which has been called the "Naples of the Eastern World".

Mount Sakurajima erupts in the south-western tip of Kyushu in February, 2016

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, focused on the Aira caldera, a large, submerged crater caused by the violent explosion and subsequent collapse of Sakurajima's magma reservoir.

It found that the volcano is being supplied with around 14 million cubic metres of magma each year - which equates to roughly three-and-a-half times the volume of Wembley Stadium.

Crucially, the researchers found magma is being supplied to the system at a faster rate than it can be released through regular, small eruptions from the volcano, which they say may indicate there is growing potential for a larger eruption within 30 years.

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Dr James Hickey, from the University of Exeter's Camborne School of Mines, said: "The 1914 eruption measured about 1.5 kilometres cubed in volume - a massive event.

"From our data we think it would take around 130 years for the volcano to store the same amount of magma for another eruption of a similar size - meaning we are around 25 years away."

The volcano on Mount Sakurajima erupts on 29 September, 2014 (Getty )

He added:"What we have discovered is not just how the magma flows into the reservoir, but just how great the reservoir is becoming.

"We believe that this new approach could help to improve eruption forecasting and hazard assessment at volcanoes not just in this area, but worldwide.

"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."

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