TOKYO (Jiji Press) — An explosive eruption occurred at the crater of the Minamidake peak of the Sakurajima volcano in the southwestern Japan city of Kagoshima around 8:05 p.m. Sunday, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.
The agency raised its volcanic alert for Sakurajima from Level 3, which calls for restrictions on entry to the volcano, to Level 5, the highest on the warning system, which urges evacuation.
Large volcanic rocks flew to areas 2.5 kilometers from the crater, and volcanic activity is becoming very active, according to the agency.
The agency called for evacuation or strict vigilance for residential areas within about 3 kilometers from the Minamidake crater and the nearby Showa crater, where large volcanic rocks may reach.
Vigilance is also needed for a pyroclastic flow, a mix of high-temperature fragments of volcanic origin such as molten rocks, ash and gas, in areas within about 2 kilometers from the Minamidake crater, the agency said.
No casualties have been confirmed from the eruption, according to the Kagoshima prefectural police department.
Slight tectonic movements showing the swelling of the mountain had been observed since around 9 a.m. last Monday, according to the meteorological agency.
Four eruptions occurred at the crater at the Minamidake peak between Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday, but the swelling of the mountain had not resolved.
Observation data as of Sunday night showed no imminent risk of a larger eruption, the agency said.
Since 2018, volcanic activities at Sakurajima have occurred mainly at the Minamidake crater. It is the first time since June 4, 2020, that a large volcanic rock has flown more than 2 kilometers from the crater.
The Level 5 volcanic alert was last issued in May 2015, when an explosive eruption happened on Kuchinoerabu Island in Kagoshima Prefecture. The eruption led all Kuchinoerabu residents to be temporarily evacuated out of the island.
The government set up an office responding to Sunday’s eruption of Sakurajima at the prime minister’s office in Tokyo.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida instructed government staff to quickly confirm the extent of possible damage from the eruption and work with relevant local authorities to take thorough measures to prevent human damage, such as evacuating climbers and residents.
“We have not been informed of particular damage from the eruption,” Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihiko Isozaki told a press conference at the prime minister’s office.
“We are making utmost efforts in response to the situation while placing top priority on protecting human lives,” he said, adding that the government will continue to fully work on figuring out the level of damage and dealing with the disaster.