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James Bond volcano stirs Japanese

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A column of volcanic smoke rises from the crater on Japan's Mount Shinmoe (AP/Kyodo News)

A column of volcanic smoke rises from the crater on Japan's Mount Shinmoe (AP/Kyodo News)

A column of volcanic smoke rises from the crater on Japan's Mount Shinmoe (AP/Kyodo News)

According to the James Bond version, circa 1967, Japan's Mount Shinmoe was a serene, extinct peak with a scenic, lake-filled crater that provided the perfect perch for 007 and his bikini-clad partner to spy on the lair of super-villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

In real life, the volcano, in its biggest series of eruptions in 52 years, burst back to life last week and is wreaking havoc with airline schedules, forcing schools and roads to close and dumping ash and rocks across towns on Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan's four main islands.

The volcano has spewed a huge plume a mile into the air and sent rubble cascading down its forested slopes. Officials say they expect the eruptions to continue and possibly intensify, for weeks to come.

"We really have no idea how long this is going to go on," said Tomoharu Konan, a town official in Takaharu, which lies at the foot of the volcano.

"We got a lot of ash in the first several days, and it covered our farms. We will have to make long term plans for how to deal with this situation."

To keep the curious out, a danger zone around Shinmoe has been widened to a radius of two and a half miles from its crater.

No significant injuries have been reported since the initial eruption last Wednesday, although a 92-year-old woman was reportedly cut by shattered glass when a window was smashed in a pulse of air from a subsequent eruption.

Disruptions to travel have been a bigger problem. Dozens of domestic flights in and out of Miyazaki - a city of 365,000 about 590 miles south west of Tokyo - were grounded last week. Though some flights had been restored, airport officials said ash on the ground and in the air have forced more cancellations.

Train services were suspended in the area and many schools closed, and the local authority has reported damage to crops and cattle.

Experts said a dome of lava was growing larger inside the 4,662ft volcano's crater, but it was not certain whether the dome would grow enough to spill over the rim and create large flows down the volcano's sides.

PA