Volcano eruption in southern Japan prompts highest alert level, evacuation advisory
Officials warn of possible falling volcanic rocks and other after-effects near crater
A volcano on Japan's main southern island of Kyushu erupted Sunday night, spewing ash and rocks. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries in nearby towns but residents were advised to evacuate.
Japan's Meteorological Agency said Sakurajima volcano erupted at around 8:05 p.m. local time, blowing off large rocks as far as 2.5 kilometres away in the southern prefecture of Kagoshima.
Footage on Japan's NHK public television showed orange flames flashing near the crater and dark smoke of ash billowing from the mountaintop high up into the night sky.
"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 update from the local authorities to protect their lives.
The agency said it has raised the eruption alert to the highest level of five and about 120 residents in two towns facing the volcano were advised to leave their homes.
The agency warned of falling volcanic rocks in areas within three kilometres of the crater and possible flow of lava, ash and searing gas within two kilometres.
Sakurajima, about 1,000 kilometres southwest of Tokyo, is one of the most active volcanos in Japan and has repeatedly erupted. It used to be an island but became a peninsula following an eruption in 1914.