A volcano on Japan’s main southern island of Kyushu has erupted, spewing ash and rocks, and sending black smoke billowing high into the air.
There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries in nearby towns, but residents were advised to evacuate on Sunday evening.
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Sakurajima volcano, which is located on the southern tip of Kyushu near the city of Kagoshima, erupted at about 8:05pm (11:05 GMT) on. Sunday, blowing off large rocks as far as 2.5km (15.5 miles) away in the southern prefecture of the city, the Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) said.
Footage on Japan’s NHK public television showed orange flames flashing near the crater. The eruption alert level has been raised to five, the highest, with some areas advised to evacuate, it added.
The agency said about 120 residents in two towns were advised to leave their homes, and warned of falling volcanic rocks in areas within 3km (1.9 miles) of the crater and the possible flow of lava, ash and searing gas within 2km (1.2 miles).
“We will put the people’s lives first and do our utmost to assess the situation and respond to any emergency,” Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihiko Isozaki told reporters.
He called on residents in the area to pay close attention to the latest updates from local authorities.
Robin George Andrews, a volcanologist who spoke to Al Jazeera from Kyushu, said that the area was well prepared for eruptions, although it was a bit unnerving when the alert level is raised to the highest level, and the danger zone can change its radius depending on the volcanic activity.
“People in Kagoshima and in the surrounding area are very well versed in what to do in the event that Sakurajima gets a bit more violent,” Andrews told Al Jazeera.
“There are regular drills and regular evacuation protocols. Schools often go through what to do with their pupils when the volcano acts up. It’s one of the most monitored volcanoes in the country.”
Nuclear regulators said there were no irregularities detected at the Sendai nuclear power plant, which lies about 50km (31 miles) from the volcano.
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. It used to be an island, but became a peninsula following an eruption in 1914.