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Record eruption at Japanese volcano, city covered in ash

Published time: August 19, 2013 08:51

This handout picture, taken by Kagoshima Local Meteorological Observatory on August 18, 2013 shows smoke and ash rising from the 1,117-meter Mount Sakurajima at Kagoshima city in Japan's southern island of Kyushu. (AFP/Jiji Press)

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Sakurajima, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, has covered the city of Kagoshima in southern Japan in ash and spewed a record-high cloud of smoke 5 kilometers into the sky.

The smoke plume was the highest since 2006, when meteorologists began storing data on smoke during eruptions from the volcano.

Sunday’s eruption was the largest at Sakurajima in decades, but the 500th recorded this year, according to Wired.com.

Lava flowed 1 kilometer from the volcano, but no injuries or damage were reported.

People living in Kagoshima, a city of 600,000 people 10 kilometers from the volcano, wore masks and raincoats, and took umbrellas to protect themselves from the hazardous ash.

This handout picture, taken by Kagoshima Local Meteorological Observatory on August 18, 2013 shows smoke and ash rising from the 1,117-meter Mount Sakurajima at Kagoshima city in Japan's southern island of Kyushu. (AFP/Jiji Press)

Volcanic ash causes respiratory problems and can damage eyesight. Minerals present in volcanic ash can also trigger fatal lung diseases.

Local officials seemed unfazed by the latest eruption, however.

"The smoke was a bit dramatic, but we are kind of used to it," a city official who requested anonymity told AP.

Railway services were suspended in the city, so that ash could be removed from the tracks, and car drivers were forced to turn on their headlights as the sky went dark.

By Monday morning, the air was clearer as hundreds of rubbish trucks and sprinklers were used to cope with the aftermath. Masked residents helped sweep up the ash.

Japan’s Meteorological Agency warned that volcanic activity could continue and advised residents against approaching the volcano. However, the agency said it was not expecting any larger eruptions soon.

Smoke rises after an eruption of Mount Sakurajima in Kagoshima, southwestern Japan, in this photo taken through a window by Kyodo August 18, 2013. (Reuters/Kyodo)