A volcano erupted in spectacular fashion on a small island in southern Japan today, spewing out rocks and sending black clouds of ash nearly 6 miles into the sky. Authorities told people on the island to evacuate, and 136 people were removed via the air and sea. One person was reported to have suffered minor burns from falling debris after Mount Shindake erupted about 10am local time, sending dense pyroclastic flows of rock and hot gases seaward, the Japan Meteorological Agency reports. The agency raised the volcano alert level for Kuchinoerabu island, where Shindake is located, to five, the highest on its scale. Shindake also erupted in August last year for the first time since 1980.
"There was a really loud 'dong' sound of an explosion, and then black smoke rose, darkening the sky," a local village chief said as he and dozens of others gathered at a shelter before leaving the island. "It smelled of sulfur." A military helicopter was sent to survey the island and assess damage, as the government pledged to do all it can to ensure the islanders' safety. Japan, which sits atop the Pacific "Ring of Fire," has dozens of volcanoes and is frequently jolted by earthquakes. The eruption last September of another volcano, Mount Ontake in central Japan, killed 57 people. A professor at Tokyo University says the eruption on Kuchinoerabu was stronger than Mount Ontake's, saying "probably the eruptions will continue" when asked if more eruptions were likely on the island. (Read more volcano stories.)