A volcano on Japan’s major western island of Kyushu erupted yesterday evening, sending black smoke billowing high into the air, but there were no immediate reports of any damage or injuries, and authorities said they did not expect a major eruption.
The volcano, which is called Sakurajima and is located on the southern tip of Kyushu near the city of Kagoshima, erupted about 8.05pm (1105 GMT), the Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) said.
Volcanic stones rained down at a distance of 2.5km (1.5 miles) from the volcano, a JMA official said.
Television footage showed red-hot rocks and dark plumes exploding from Sakurajima volcano.
The eruption alert level has been raised to five, the highest, with some areas advised to evacuate, he added, but no large eruption was expected.
Previously it was at level three, which bans entry to the mountain.
Sakurajima is one of Japan’s most active volcanoes and eruptions of varying levels take place on a regular basis.
In 2019 it spewed ash 5.5km (3.4 miles) high.
There were no immediate reports of damage from yesterday’s eruption, deputy chief cabinet secretary Yoshihiko Isozaki told a news conference, as government officials sought more information on the situation.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has instructed the government “to work closely with the local municipality to ensure damage prevention, such as through evacuations”, Isozaki said.
Nuclear regulators said there were no irregularities detected at the Sendai atomic plant, which lies about 50km (31 miles) from the volcano.
The JMA said rain is expected in some areas near the volcano today but not the kind of heavy rain that could cause mudslides following the eruption.
Most of the city of Kagoshima is across the bay from the volcano but several residential areas within about 3km (1.9 miles) of the crater may be ordered to evacuate depending on the situation, NHK said.
It later reported that 51 people in the vicinity were being evacuated.
“Residential areas of Arimura town and Furusato town within 3km of the summit crater ... of Sakurajima should be on high alert,” Tsuyoshi Nakatsuji of the JMA’s Volcanic Observation Division told reporters.
According to Kagoshima City, there are 77 residents in the two towns.
Nakatsuji said the JMA last week had observed the swelling of the volcano, which signals the accumulation of magma.
“But the swelling hasn’t been resolved after the latest eruption,” he said. “We’ll carefully monitor this.”
Japan has scores of active volcanoes and sits on the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire” where a large proportion of the world’s earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are recorded.
Sakurajima was formerly an island, but due to previous eruptions is now attached to a peninsula.
Japan last issued the top evacuation alert for a volcano when Kuchinoerabu island, also in Kagoshima, erupted in 2015.
Volcanic lightning over Mount Sakurajima is seen in this picture taken on December 17, 2020, from Tarumizu city in Japan’s Kagoshima prefecture.