Mount Unzen, a volcano that claimed at least 37 lives less than a week ago, burst to life again Saturday, spewing superhot debris that set homes on fire and blacking out a nearby city of 45,000.
There were no reports of injuries in Saturday's eruption, but it was much more intense than the deadly one Monday. Thousands of people were evacuated from areas near the mountain before the latest eruption.Lightning bolts danced in dark gray plumes of smoke and ash that belched out as the massive eruption sent debris and gas down the 4,452-foot-tall mountain's east slope.
The eruption left several homes burning and cut off electricity to the city of Shimabara, said a prefectural police official in Nagasaki.
Shimabara lies on the Pacific coast at the foot of the mountain and is 600 miles southwest of Tokyo.
Phone lines to Shimabara were overwhelmed by a flood of calls. The extent of the damage was unknown.
The national Meteorological Agency said the eruption occurred at 7:51 p.m. (4:51 a.m. MDT) and was followed by a smaller burst about two hours later.
Volcano experts said they did not expect another major eruption overnight but stressed that the volcano was still very active.
"When the mountain quiets down, magma inside is still rising to the top," Daisuke Shimozuru, chairman of the Coordinating Committee for the Prediction of Volcanic Eruptions, told a news conference. "It is possible that in the future . . . areas even farther away may be within the mountain's reach."
Most of Shimabara was blacked out soon after the eruption, but electricity was restored in about 15 minutes. Officials said they did not know the specific cause of the blackout but said it was connected to the eruption.
Firefighters and soldiers stationed in the city after Monday's blast were unable to search for possible victims or accurately estimate damage because of darkness.