Japan’s Sakurajima volcano erupts, prompting evacuation

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

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

Footage from Japan’s public broadcaster NHK showed orange flames flickering near the crater and dark ash smoke billowing from the mountaintop high into the night sky.

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

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The agency said it raised the eruption alert to the highest level of 5, and about 120 residents in two towns facing the volcano were advised to leave their homes.

The agency warned of falling volcanic rock in areas within 3 kilometers of the crater and possible flows of lava, ash and burning gas up to 2 kilometres.

Sakurajima, about 1,000 kilometers southwest of Tokyo, is one of Japan’s most active volcanoes and erupts repeatedly. It used to be an island, but after the eruption in 1914 it became a peninsula.

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