Tokyo: Dozens of people have evacuated two cities on Japan’s main southern island of Kyushu, where a volcano spewed ash and large rocks into the night sky.
Large rocks fell 2.5 kilometres (1.5 miles) from Sakurajima volcano in the southern prefecture of Kagoshima on Sunday night. Footage from Japan’s NHK public television showed orange flames glowing near the crater and dark smoke with ash rising above the top of the mountain.
Japan’s Meteorological Agency raised the eruption warning to a high of five and advised 51 residents in the two cities facing the volcano to leave their homes.
According to the city of Kagoshima, as of Monday morning, 33 people had left their homes for a nursing care facility in a safer part of the area. NHK said others subject to evacuation could be moved to other locations.
“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 to pay close attention to updates from local authorities to protect their lives.
JMA warned of the potential for falling volcanic rocks within 3 kilometres (1.8 miles) of the crater and a possible flow of lava, ash and hot gas within 2 kilometres (1.2 miles).
The chances of more explosive, violent eruptions were low. However, residents should still be watchful for falling rocks, mudslides and pyroclastic flow, said Tsuyoshi Nakatsuji, a JMA official in volcano watch. He also advised residents to close curtains and stay away from windows, which could break by the force of an eruption.
Sakurajima on the main southern island of Kyushu is one of Japan’s most active volcanos and has erupted repeatedly. It used to be an island but became a peninsula following an eruption in 1914 that killed 58 people.
Sakurajima is about 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) southwest of Tokyo.