By Sandra Birungi
Sakurajima mountain has erupted for the 500th time in a year making it one of the most active volcanic mountains.
The eruption occurred on Sunday Aug. 18 at 4:31 p.m. local time unleashing a pyroclastic flow. According to Japan’s Meteorological Agency, the superheated mix of volcanic gas, ash and debris flow raced down a slope at more than 200 mph (90 km/h). The eruption tossed large volcanic cinders (pieces of hot lava) more than 5,900 feet (1,800 meters) from the volcano’s Showa crater, one of two active craters atop Sakurajima.
Residents had to walk with umbrellas and wore masks for protection from the ash which spurted more than 16,400 feet (5,000 m) into the sky, then drifted westward toward the nearby city of Kagoshima.
Mount Sakurajima’s eruptions have changed over time. Before 1955, the volcano exploded every few hundred years, blasting in 1471, in 1779 and in 1914, for example. After 1955, Sakurajima started spitting out small amounts of lava and ash almost daily, with occasional pauses or larger blasts.
Sakurajima “has a very regular flux of magma and gas, and that explains why it erupts so frequently,” Fee said on why the mountain is so active. “But why there is such a regular flux of magma is a more difficult question.”