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Japan's Shinmoedake volcano eruption prompts increased alert levels

Japan's Shinmoedake volcano, known by James Bond aficionados as the lair of one of 007's enemies, scattered thick ash over a wide area, toppled trees, and shattered windows in buildings and cars five miles away.

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Volcanic smoke rises from the crater on Mount Shinmoedake in the Kirishimna range on Japan's southernmost main island of Kyushu, on Tuesday, Feb. 1. The revived volcano in southern Japan erupted Tuesday with its biggest explosion yet, shooting out a huge plume of gas, boulders, and ash and breaking windows five miles away.

Kyodo News/AP

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Authorities in southern Japan today increased alert levels after a volcano produced its most powerful eruption since it exploded back to life almost a week ago. Concern is mounting that the activity could be a prelude to far more destructive eruptions.

Shinmoedake, part of the Mount Kirishima cluster of volcanoes on the island of Kyushu, scattered thick ash over a wide area, toppled trees, and shattered windows in buildings and cars five miles away.

Local media said boulders had landed on roads some distance from the 4,662-foot peak, while one woman was reportedly cut by broken glass. No serious injuries have been reported since the volcano erupted last Wednesday, its fist major activity for 52 years.

More than 1,000 residents in high-risk areas were advised to seek refuge in evacuation centers, although so far only about 600 have done so. Those who opted to stay at home are protecting themselves from the ash with facemasks and sunglasses.

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