© Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images A plume of smoke rises from the crater of Mount Shinmoedake in the Kirishima mountain range of Kagoshima prefecture, Japan.
Shinmoedake, a volcano on Japan's southern island of Kyushu, erupted again as the government said it will send officials to the area to help local authorities create an evacuation plan.

The 1,421-meter (4,660 feet) volcano in the Kirishima range erupted at 9:42 a.m. local time following three eruptions yesterday, sending a plume of ash and smoke as high as 3,000 meters, a branch division of the agency said in a statement. The plume was drifting east-northeast toward Miyazaki Prefecture's Pacific coastline, the statement said.

The government plans to send a group of natural disaster officials to the area as early as Feb. 7, Shigeo Ochi, an official at the Cabinet Office, said in a telephone interview today. Japan's Meteorological Agency is maintaining a level 3 alert for Shinmoedake, indicating an eruption "may seriously affect places near residential areas." Evacuations are carried out when the alert reaches the maximum 5.

"In the case of a major eruption, if the central and local governments have an evacuation plan ready, that can ensure there's a smooth evacuation with no loss of life," he said.

Japan Airlines Corp., All Nippon Airways Co. and Skymark Airlines Inc., Japan's biggest discount carrier, said flights to the region may be delayed or diverted because of the ash plume.

Shinmoedake erupted for the first time in 52 years on Jan. 27 and has erupted more than 10 times since, according to the JMA. The agency says a lava dome in the crater is growing and may spill out, creating a lava flow. Authorities are maintaining a restricted zone of 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) around the volcano.

Most Active Volcano

The weather agency is also maintaining a level 3 alert for Sakurajima, 45 kilometers (28 miles) to the southwest. The volcano is among Japan's most active, with 1,026 volcanic incidents in 2010, the most since at least 1982, according to Japan's weather agency.

Shinmoedake was the setting for villain Ernst Blofeld's volcano headquarters in the 1967 James Bond movie 'You Only Live Twice,' featuring Sean Connery in the title role, according to the Internet Movie Database.