How dangerous is the Japanese volcano Sakurajima, which has started erupting?
Japanese authorities have declared the highest level of alert after the volcano started spewing ash and smoke at 7am ET. No damage has been reported.
Japanese authorities declared an Alert Level 5, the highest possible, after the volcano Mount Sakurajima started erupting today, Sunday 24 July, at 8.05 p.m. (7.05 a.m. ET). The Japan Meteorological Agency urged maximum precaution and advised residents to evacuate.
The volcano, one of Japan’s most active, started spewing a column of smoke and ash, which reached a height of 1.5 miles.
No damage has been reported, but stones were reported to be raining down some 1.5 miles from the active crater.
“We will put the people’s lives first and do our utmost to assess the situation and respond to any emergency,” Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihiko Isozaki told reporters
People have been asked to evacuate from nearby areas including from the city of Kagoshima, the nearest residential area, which lies around two miles away from the volcano on the other side of the bay.
How dangerous is Mount Sakurajima?
Mount Sakurajima is currently a highly active volcano. An eruption in on 14 January, 1914 was the most powerful in 20th century Japan, and came after the volcano had been dormant for over a century. Although most residents had left the island after several large earthquakes indicated an eruption was coming, a huge earthquake on 13 January killed 58 people and the volcano then began generating a huge lava flow, which filled the strait between the island of Sakurajima and the mainland, turning it into a peninsula.
The volcano has been erupting almost continuously since 1955. Given the amount of people living close to the volcano it is highly monitored, with a dedicated Sakurajima Volcano Observatory set up in 1960.
The local population conducts regular evacuation drills and there are a number of shelters available, meaning the risk of any eruption to human life is lowered.
The volcano regularly erupts throwing ash up to a few miles into the sky, but there have been no reported deaths from eruptions in the past 10 years.
What is concerning about this current eruption is that it is the first time the Japan Meteorological Agency has raised the eruption alert level to Level 5, the highest level.