Evacuation alert after volcano erupts in southern Japan

TOKYO: Dozens of people were urged to evacuate their homes after a fiery volcanic eruption in southern Japan on Sunday as the national weather agency issued its top-level alert for the mountain.

Television footage showed lava and dark plumes of ash exploding from Sakurajima in Kagoshima, which erupted just after 8 pm (1100 GMT).

The volcano frequently spits out smoke and ash, and is a major tourist attraction.

Sunday's blast propelled large cinders about 2.5 kilometres (1.5 miles) from the crater, the Japan Meteorological Agency said in a statement.

The agency raised its alert for Sakurajima to level five, the top level, which urges evacuations. Before the eruption it was at level three, which bans entry to the mountain.

"Residential areas of Arimura town and Furusato town within three kilometres of the summit crater... of Sakurajima should be on high alert," the JMA said.

According to Kagoshima City, there are 77 residents in the two towns.

There were no immediate reports of damage, according to public broadcaster NHK.

Japan has scores of 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 due to previous eruptions is now attached to a peninsula.

Japan last issued the top evacuation alert for a volcano when Kuchinoerabu island, also in Kagoshima, erupted in 2015. -- AFP

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