Mount Sakurajima erupts in fiery blast

AP, Kyodo, Reuters, Staff Report

Mount Sakurajima, a volcano that overlooks the city of Kagoshima, erupted Friday with a fiery blast that sent lava rolling down its slope.

The Meteorological Agency said Sakurajima, which is about 50 km from Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai nuclear plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, erupted at 6:56 p.m.

Local television showed an orange burst out of the side of the volcano, near the summit, accompanied by lightning-like flashes. Dark gray smoke billowed into the sky.

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

The Meteorological Agency banned entry to the area, expanding an existing no-go zone around the crater to a 2-kilometer radius.

Given the eruption, the weather agency upgraded the volcanic alert from level 2 to level 3, which prohibits people from entering the mountain. The agency warned areas near residential districts on the mountain’s foot could be gravely affected.

Kazuhiro Ishihara, professor emeritus at Kyoto University and an volcano expert, was quoted by NHK as saying that the eruption was unlikely to have an immediate serious impact on nearby residential areas because the live video images appeared to show rocks flying only 2 km from the mountain’s top.

Friday’s eruption, while dramatic, was average compared to Sakurajima’s past eruptions, Ishihara told NHK.

At a news conference in Tokyo, an agency official said Sakurajima’s volcanic activity is likely to continue, adding that Friday’s eruption is probably a resumption of the previous eruptions that had continued until the mountain’s last major eruption in September.

Local residents appeared rather calm.

“I jumped out of my house after I heard the news but I didn’t see anything or hear anything,” said Yoko Noguchi, 75, who lives in the northwestern part of the Sakurajima island.

“I’m not scared because I’m used to it,” said Toru Sakamoto, 56, who heard the blast at his home.

The Japanese archipelago sits atop the Pacific “Ring of fire” and has more than 100 volcanoes. The 2014 eruption of Mount Ontake in central Japan killed 57 people.