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Massive Volcanic Eruption in Japan

Nov 29, 2014 01:36 PM EST

Dangerously thick plumes of volcanic ash have caused a significant number of flight cancellations and delays in southern Japan. The eruption of Mount Aso - one of the largest volcanoes in the world - also shook Kyushu island with a massive boom before raining lava and searing rocks on its largely uninhabited countryside.

The volcano and its respective island are about 625 miles away from Tokyo, and so far, no reports have come in concerning injury or death. However, according to the Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA), this was a relatively unexpected blast, as Aso hasn't seen significant volcanic activity in more than 22 years. Concerns were first raised on Tuesday, when minor activity was detected, but local observatories had not expected the activity to increase in scale in a mere two days, according to The Associated Press.

The Thursday blast sent flying debris and a thick column of smoke and ash more than 3,200 feet into the sky. Planes will often stay grounded or be diverted to a longer route to avoid these conditions, as ash not only cuts visibility, but can clog even the most advanced of jet turbines, leading to dangerous engine failure of even fire.

Volcanic Ash Advisories kept planes grounded on Thursday, and have persisted into Saturday, sacrificing traveler convenience for the sake of safety.

A Japan Airlines spokesperson told the Agence France-Presse (AFP) that they had to cancel twelve flights in all on Thursday and have since been redirecting inbound air traffic to new destinations further from or around Kyushu island.

Japan has been seeing an uncharacteristic amount of volcanic activity recently, even for a country frequently assaulted by geological disasters. Another unexpected eruption that occurred last September trapped hundreds of hikers on Mount Ontake under thick volcanic ash. Search-and-rescue efforts revealed that 56 people had succumbed to asphyxiation, making it Japan's most tragic volcanic disaster in nearly 90 years.

Researchers suggest that these eruptions are becoming harder to predict because Japan's massive 2011 earthquake and tsunami event has left the region like a shaken bottle of champagne - ready to blow at any minute with little warning.

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