TOKYO (CBS SF) — An volcanic island that is erupting off the coast of Japan is could trigger a tsunami if part of the newly-formed lava slopes collapse into the sea, according to an earthquake expert.

The volcano appeared last year and its growing lava mass has engulfed the existing island of Nishinoshima, about 620 miles south of Tokyo.

Fukashi Maeno, assistant professor of the Earthquake Research Institute at the University of Tokyo, told Agence France-Presse the lava is accumulating on the east side of the island.

“If lava continues to mount on the eastern area, part of the island’s slopes could collapse and cause a tsunami,” he told AFP.

The two volcanic craters are spewing out enough lava to fill 80 Olympic swimming pools, according to scientists.

Maeno told AFP a rockfall of 12 million cubic metres of lava would generate a one metre tsunami that could hit a populated archipelago 80 miles away within 18 minutes.

“The ideal way to monitor and avoid a natural disaster is to set up a new tsunami and earthquake detection system near the island, but it’s impossible for anyone to land on the island in the current situation,” Maeno told AFP.

A tsunami generated by a 9.0 undersea earthquake in 2011, the most powerful quake to ever hit Japan, sent a wall of water into the Japanese coast, killed more than 15,000 people.


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