Japan’s Sakurajima volcano, located about six miles from Kagoshima city in the Kagoshima Prefecture, erupted on Sunday at 4.30 p.m. (3:30 a.m. EDT), spewing ash plumes three miles up into the sky and covering the region with large amounts of volcanic ash.
Sunday’s eruption was Sakurajima’s most powerful in decades, which shot a column of ash three miles high while molten lava flowed about half-a-mile from the volcano's crater, local media reported, citing the Kagoshima Local Meteorological Observatory, which also noticed a pyroclastic flow -- a fast-moving current of hot gas and rock -- on the southeastern side of the mountain.
According to media reports, it was the 500th eruption this year of one of Japan’s most active volcanoes. The eruption of the 1,117-meter-high (about 3,665 feet) volcano covered Kagoshima city with a layer of ash, hurting visibility in the downtown area of the city, which is home to 600,000 residents.
People in Kagoshima city, who were caught outside, used masks and umbrellas to get rid of the ash fall, while drivers had to turn on their cars’ headlights as visibility dropped. The city’s railway service was also stopped temporarily until the ash could be removed from the tracks. No injuries or damages have been reported yet.
"The smoke was a bit dramatic, but we are kind of used to it," a city official told Associated Press.
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The Japan Meteorological Agency, or JMA, has issued a standing alert against going near the volcano. Although there are no signs of another large eruption at Sakurajima, it cannot be ruled out in future, according JMA.
Japan's location in the Pacific “Ring of Fire” makes it vulnerable to frequent seismic and volcanic activities. In January, researchers predicted that Japan’s Mount Fuji, another active volcano in Japan located about 62 miles south-west of Tokyo, may erupt in 2015 as its “magma chamber pressure” is rising constantly.
And, if it does, according to government estimates, at least 567,000 people may have to be evacuated from their homes, while an additional 130,000 may be affected if the lava flow from Mount Fuji reaches the residential areas of Fuji City.