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Japan's Sakurajima volcano erupts on southern island of Kyushu

The volcano is located 31 miles from the Sendai nuclear plant.

By Elizabeth Shim
Japan's Sakurajima volcano erupts on southern island of Kyushu
Sakurajima volcano in Kyushu erupted Friday evening, emitting ash and stones. No injuries were reported. File Photo by Kimon Berlin/Flickr

TOKYO, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- A fiery volcano on Japan's island of Kyushu erupted Friday evening, sending lava streaming down a side of the mountain. No injuries were reported.

Images of the powerful eruption showed Sakurajima volcano emitting ash and rock into a darkened evening sky, and even flashes of volcanic lightning, Sky News reported.

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The eruption occurred around 7 p.m. local time, according to television network NHK, which also aired footage of the blast.

Japan's nuclear Sendai plant, restarted last October, is 31 miles away, but is operating at normal levels, according to a Kyushu Electric Power Co. spokesman who requested anonymity.

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Bloomberg reported the Japan Meteorological Agency raised a volcano alert from 2 to 3, while instructing people to steer clear of the area.

The volcano, which has been showing signs of escalating activity since August, was underestimated, according to the environmental group Greenpeace. Ash deposits from a volcanic eruption has serious consequences that are being overlooked by authorities, the group said, adding Kyushu Electric had carried out "flawed volcano risk analysis."

About 4,000 people live near Sakurajima, but according to Kazuhiro Ishihara, a Kyoto University professor, the area is "quite far" from communities.

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Locals, however, have previously been warned of a major eruption and were told to make contingency plans for a possible evacuation.

Japan's resumption of normal operation at the Sendai complex drew popular opposition last October. More than a hundred activists protested the decision, including parents worried about the fallout from a potential accident and its impact on their children.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said he supports the return to nuclear power, and has said Japan now has the "world's toughest" nuclear power safety measures.

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