A volcanic eruption is continuing on Kuchinoerabu Island in Kagoshima Prefecture, southwestern Japan, with smoke billowing up to 1,000 meters above the crater.
The Japan Meteorological Agency says Mount Shindake, located in the center of the island, erupted shortly before 10 AM on Friday. Smoke reached a height of more than 9,000 meters at one point and cinders are scattered around the crater.
Pyroclastic flows have reached the northwestern shore of the island. Most of the areas hit by these flows are in a no-entry zone that was set up after an eruption last August.
The agency has raised the eruption-alert level from 3 to 5 on a scale of 1 to 5.
The municipal government has issued an evacuation order and is urging all residents to leave the island.
As of noon on Friday, the municipality had confirmed the safety of all 137 residents. Many of them are staying in a shelter on the island.
Kuchinoerabu Island is 15 kilometers west of Yakushima Island, a World Natural Heritage site, and is 130 kilometers southwest of Kagoshima City.