- Mass evacuations in Indonesia and Vanuatu have occurred in the last month
- Now, Japan’s Shinmoedake volcano started erupting for the first time in six years
- The ‘Ring of Fire’ is a 25,000-mile-long zone prone to earthquakes and eruptions
The horseshoe-shaped string of active volcanos bounding the Pacific Ocean has lived up to its ‘Ring of Fire’ name in the past month, sparking mass evacuations in Indonesia and Vanuatu and now setting parts of southwestern Japan on edge.
The 450 or so volcanos that make up the ‘Ring of Fire’ are an outline of where the massive Pacific Plate is grinding against other plates that form the Earth’s crust, creating a 40,000-kilometer (25,000-mile) -long zone prone to frequent earthquakes and eruptions.
Now, the Shinmoedake volcano in southwestern Japan started erupting Wednesday for the first time in about six years.
The horseshoe-shaped string of active volcanos in the Pacific Ocean has lived up to its ‘Ring of Fire’ name in the past month. Pictured from left to right: Shinmoedake volcano in southwestern Japan on Oct. 12, ; Mount Agung in Bali on Oct. 8,; Manaro volcano on Vanuatu on Oct. 1,.
According to Japanese broadcaster TBS, an ash plume rose 1,700 meters (5,580 feet) from the crater Thursday and ash fell on cities and towns in Miyazaki prefecture.
Videos showed students wearing helmets and masks on their way to an elementary 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.
It raised the volcanic alert level from 2 to 3 on a scale of 5.
Level 3 warns people to not approach the volcano.
Volcanic smoke rises from the Shinmoedake volcano after its eruption in the border of Kagoshima and Miyazaki prefectures, southwestern Japan
More than 140,000 people fled Mount Agung on the Indonesian island of Bali after its alert status was raised to the highest level on Sept. 22.
Hundreds of tremors daily from the mountain indicate magma is rising inside it, prompting authorities to warn a powerful eruption is possible.
The volcano spewed lava and deadly fast-moving clouds of boiling hot ash, gas and rocks when it last erupted in 1963, killing more than 1,100 people.
A new eruption is likely to kill fewer people because officials have imposed a large no-go zone around the crater but it could paralyze tourism, which many Balinese rely on for their livelihoods.
Above, children play at a beach with Mount Agung volcano seen in the background during sunset in Karangasem, Bali, Indonesia
THE ‘RING OF FIRE’
The Ring of Fire is a horse-shoe shaped seismic region stretching along the Pacific Ocean coastlines, where the Pacific Plate is grinding against other plates that form the Earth’s crust.
It loops from New Zealand to Chile, passing through the coasts of Asia and the Americas on the way.
And, roughly 90 percent of the world’s earthquakes occur in this belt.
The Ring of Fire is also home to roughly 450 volcanoes.
In total, the loop makes up a 40,000-kilometer (25,000-mile) -long zone prone to frequent earthquakes and eruptions.
Indonesia has more than one tenth of the world’s active volcanos and another two are currently erupting.
Sinabung in northern Sumatra is shooting plumes of ash high into the atmosphere nearly daily and Dukono in the Maluku island chain is also periodically erupting.
The entire population of a Pacific island was evacuated in the space of a few days in late September and early October to escape the belching Manaro volcano.
The 11,000 residents of Ambae island were moved by every boat available to other islands in Vanuatu, a Pacific archipelago nation, where they’re living in schools, churches and tents.
Officials have since downgraded the volcano’s danger level but say the population must wait at least two more weeks to return.
An aerial view of the volcanic cone that has formed in Lake Vui near the summit of Ambae Island, Vanuatu can be seen above
The island’s water supply and crops have been affected by volcanic ash and acid rain but most villages were spared major damage.
Previous eruptions of the volcano have lasted a month to six weeks.
The eruption fears come just weeks after a series of powerful earthquakes rocked several locations along the Pacific, one by one in the span of just 24 hours, along the path of the Ring of Fire.
The events had many regions wondering if they could be next.
A 6.1 magnitude earthquake hit New Zealand late September, followed by temblors off the coasts of Japan (6.1), Vanuatu (6.4), and Indonesia (5.7), experts admitted the Pacific is experiencing ‘unusual’ seismic activity.