Volcano eruption in southern Japan triggers highest alert level and evacuation notice

A volcano on Japan’s southern main island of Kyushu erupted on Sunday evening, spewing ash and rocks. No damage or injuries were immediately reported in nearby towns, but residents were told to evacuate.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said the Sakurajima volcano erupted around 8:05 p.m. local time, blowing large boulders up to 2.5 kilometers away in the southern prefecture of Kagoshima.

Footage from Japanese public television NHK showed flashing orange flames near the crater and black ash smoke billowing from the mountaintop into the night sky.

“We will put people’s lives first and do our utmost to assess the situation and respond to any emergencies,” Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihiko Isozaki told reporters. He called on people in the area to pay close attention to the latest update from local authorities to protect their lives.

The agency said it raised the eruption alert to the highest level of five and about 120 residents of two towns facing the volcano have been asked to leave their homes.

An official points to a photo of the Sakurajima eruption during a press conference in Tokyo on Sunday. (Jiji Press/AFP/Getty Images)

The agency warned of volcanic rock falls in areas within three kilometers of the crater and a possible flow of lava, ash and incandescent gas within two kilometers.

Sakurajima, about 1,000 kilometers southwest of Tokyo, is one of Japan’s most active volcanoes and has erupted several times. Once an island, it became a peninsula following an eruption in 1914.