Dozens of people were urged to evacuate their homes after a massive volcanic eruption in southern Japan on Sunday as the national weather agency issued its top-level alert for the mountain.
Television footage showed red-hot rocks and dark plumes erupting from Kagoshima’s Sakurajima volcano just after 8 p.m. (1100 GMT).
Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihiko Isozaki said there were no immediate reports of damage.
Isozaki told reporters that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has instructed the government to “work closely with the local municipality to ensure the prevention of damage, such as through evacuation.”
The volcano often emits smoke and ash and is a major tourist attraction.
The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said Sunday’s eruption sparked a massive fire about 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) from the crater, while smoke reached about 300 meters and merged into clouds.
The agency raised its alert for Sakurajima to level five, the top level, which urges evacuation.
Previously it was on the third level, which prohibits entry into the mountain.
The volcano saw four first eruptions between Saturday and Sunday afternoon, with plumes reaching heights of 1,200 meters.
“The residential areas of Arimura City and Furusato City within three kilometers of Sakurajima’s summit crater should be put on high alert,” Suyoshi Nakatsuji of JMA’s Volcano Observation Division told reporters.
According to Kagoshima City, both cities have 77 residents.
Nakatsuji said the JMA had observed swelling in the volcano last week, indicating an accumulation of magma.
“But the swelling has not resolved after the latest eruption,” he said.
“We will be monitoring it carefully.”
Japan has many 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 is now connected to a peninsula due to past eruptions.
Japan last issued a top evacuation alert for the volcano when Kuchinoerabu Island in Kagoshima also erupted in 2015.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)