Lightning strikes during an eruption from Mount Shinmoedake in the Kirishima range of southern Japan. Smoke and ash continued to spew from the volcano in southern Japan on as local officials banned residents from going within 1.2 miles of the volcano AP/Shuji Uchimura

The angry earth

Long-dormant volcano spits fire and smoke in Japan

A Japanese volcano began erupting on Wednesday, spewing smoke and ash up to 9,800 feet into the air.

Smoke came from the Mount Shinmoe volcano, on the boundary between Miyazaki and Kagoshima prefectures. Some people in Miyazaki voluntarily evacuated but later returned home.

The last large-scale eruption, such as this one, was last observed about 52 years ago.

Backcountry snowmobilers have accounted for the largest number of avalanche related-fatalities in Canada for the last three years, a statistic the Canadian Avalanche Centre attributes in part to a growing trend in the use of the machines.

Between 2008 and 2010, 31 snowmobilers died in avalanches in Canada, while only 17 skiers were killed during the same time period.

The death toll from floods and landslides caused by heavy rains in the Philippines rose to 75.

At least 21 remain missing while 13 were reported injured. At least 745 houses were destroyed while 4,550 were damaged.

The death toll from floods in South Africa has continued to rise, following weeks of heavy rains that began in December.

Seventy people have died and more than 8,000 families have been forced to leave their homes. Five other countries in the region, from Mozambique to Namibia, are on alert for further floods.

Some of the biggest rivers in the region, the Zambezi and the Okavango, are at about twice their normal levels.

South Africa has declared eight of its nine provinces disaster areas, with damage estimated at $51m (€40m).

Go figure

26% of Japanese shop-lifters last year were over 65, more than even teenagers. Most stole food or clothes

$7bn size of fraud scheme run by Texas financier Allen Stanford, who will not now stand trial as he is 'unfit'

8,000 homes to be built free of charge for poor people made homeless by floods and landslides in Brazil

On this day in 1703

The 47 Ronin take revenge for the death of their beloved master

THE Japanese warrior code was strict and unforgiving. If a samurai's master died, they became ronin (wave man), or leaderless.

In 1701, one feudal lord, Asano Naganori, assaulted and insulted a court official called Kira Yoshinaka. Because it happened within the walls of Edo Castle, he was forced to commit seppuku (ritual suicide) and all his goods and lands seized. His 300 samurai were declared 'ronin' and cast off.

Forty-seven of the men swore a secret oath to avenge their master before dispersing to become monks or tradesmen. To dispel suspicion their leader, Oishi Yoshio (pictured), began frequenting brothels and drinking heavily. One plotter married the daughter of the builder of Kira's house to access the plans.

Two years later, during a fierce snowstorm, the 47 ronin attacked the mansion.

They cornered Kira and offered him the chance to commit seppuku, but he refused and was beheaded by Oishi. They carried the head to Asano's tomb and then turned themselves in to the authorities.

The code of Bushido forbade taking revenge and the ronin were sentenced to death. There was an outcry as Kira was widely hated, so 46 ronin were allowed to commit seppuku instead. The 47th, a youth, was spared and eventually buried with his comrades.

The attack on Kira's mansion, the best-loved Japanese tale, occured 308 years ago on this day.

The week in laughs

Richard Keys and Andy Gray will be spending much time explaining the "caught offmic" rule to their wives


Good news. Congress­woman Gabby Giffords is able to stand up and the next stop is rehab. Now if we could only say the same thing about Charlie Sheen

(Bill Maher)

The Pope praised Facebook but said it is no substitute for human interaction. Then the Pope reminded everyone that human interaction is a sin

(Conan O'Brien)

Vice President Joe Biden was called for jury duty. He can get out of it if he can convince the judge that his presence at his job is essential. So he's going to jury duty

(Jay Leno)

News hound - What it says in the international press

The Queensland Times - Floods reveal 80 year old bar in Queensland

Norma Flannery has been involved in the Ulster Hotel on Brisbane Street since her family moved into it when she was six in 1933. She watched it go under water in 1974 and again last week. "When we pulled the bar out we found the 1930 bar in behind."

The Times of India - 'Ihate Gandhi' group face bringing to book

An police officer has lodged a charge against Facebook for allegedly maligning the image of Mahatma Gandhi through an online group. Amitabh Thakur alleged that abuses and dirty words have been used against Gandhi in the 'I hate Gandhi' group.

Atlantic City Weekly - Drag queen pageant makes Jersey fab

Definition of a drag queen? A man who likes to eat, drink, and be Mary! At the Miss'd America Pageant, host Suzanne Westenhoefer, "the funniest lesbian ever", said: "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but what happens in Atlantic City matters!"

Sowetan - Anti-Aids 'whoonga' drug raid in Soweto

Two men were arrested for allegedly selling 'whoonga' from their home in Soweto's Jabulani hostel. Police raided and found the drug being sold. Whoonga is a mixture of anti­retroviral medicine, drugs such as heroin or dagga, pow­d­ered detergent and rat poison.

Checking out - The people we said goodbye to last week

Jack LaLanne, 96, American fitness and nutritional expert; pneumonia

Bernd Eichinger, 61, German film producer and director (The Neverending Story, Downfall; Name of the Rose); heart attack

Sexy Cora, 23, German porn actress and singer; heart attack

Charlie Louvin, 83, US country music singer (The Louvin Brothers); cancer

Vincent Cronin, 83, British historian and biographer, son of novelist AJCronin

Gladys Horton, 65, US R&B singer (The Marvel­ettes), stroke

David Kato, 40s, Ugandan gay activist, beating