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Evacuations Ordered After Japan’s Sakurajima Volcano Erupts

Published: July 25, 2022
A general morning view of Sakurajima on Aug. 11, 2016 in Kagoshima, Japan. Mt. Sakurajima, an active volcano, erupted on Sunday prompting authorities to issue evacuation orders for the region. The eruption flung debris 1.5 miles away and left a layer of ash on the immediate area. (Image: Keith Tsuji/Getty Images)

On Sunday, July 24, Japan’s Sakurajima volcano, located on the island of Kyushu on the southern tip of Japan, erupted, prompting authorities to issue an evacuation order for the region. 

According to the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) Sakurajima erupted at approximately 8:05 p.m. local time on Sunday. Footage, captured by the agency’s surveillance camera, shows smoke and ash venting from the volcano and rising into the atmosphere. 

The eruption prompted the JMA to announce a level 5 alert — the highest alert level — and ordered local residents to evacuate. Residents in Kagoshima Prefecture and Kagoshima City, home to over 500,000 people, were advised to use caution. 

This is only the second time the JMA has declared a level 5 alert since the current alert system was launched in 2007. The first time was in 2015 during an eruption on Kuchinoerabu Island in Kagoshima Prefecture. 

Authorities operating the nearby Sendai nuclear plant said that no irregularities were detected.

The eruption flung large rocks 1.5 miles away as orange flames flashed near the crater. 

In total, 51 residents from two small towns were required to leave their homes. According to Kagoshima city authorities they took refuge in a nursing care facility in a safer part of the region 

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihiko Isozaki told reporters, “We will put the people’s lives first and do our utmost to assess the situation and respond to any emergency,” and called on residents to pay close attention to updates from local authorities.  

The eruption left a visible layer of dust on vehicles in Kagoshima, however no damages or casualties have been reported. 


One of the most active volcanoes in the world

The Sakurajima volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and one of the few volcanoes known to be almost constantly active. 

The volcano is considered very dangerous and is closely monitored. Activity from the volcano has been recorded as far back as the 8th century. 

Historically the largest eruptions of Sakurajima took place during 1471-76 and in 1914. 

The eruption in 1914 was Japan’s highest intensity and magnitude eruption of the twentieth century. The eruption began on January 11, 1914 from two fissures located on opposite sides of the volcano and lasted until the following April. It had been dormant for over a century prior to this eruption. 

The eruption spawned a deadly earthquake which claimed the lives of 58 people. 

Rare lava flows filled a narrow strait between the island and the mainland, creating a peninsula. The island grew, engulfing several smaller islands and eventually connected the mainland by a narrow isthmus, a narrow strip of land that connects two larger masses of land. 

In light of the danger the volcano poses to the immediate population, it was designated a Decade Volcano in 1991. It is one of 16 volcanoes identified by the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior (IAVCEI) as being worthy of scrutiny due to its history of large destructive eruptions.