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Monday, 17th August 2015
In General Japan News,

Alerts still in place at Japan's Mount Sakurajima volcano

Alerts put in place at the Mount Sakurajima volcano by the Japan Meteorological Agency will remain today (August 17th), as the organisation predicts an eruption.

The volcano, located in the south-west of Japan, has been showing signs of heightened seismic activity over the weekend and although this has declined, there is still a chance it might blow.

A level four warning has been enforced since Saturday morning, meaning that anyone living within a three-kilometre radius of the craters has been on standby to leave.

On Saturday alone, there were some 1,023 volcanic earthquakes detected on Mount Sakurajima through data collected by the agency.

By Sunday, this number fell to 71 and at 9am today, there had only been 11, but the body said an eruption could not be ruled out at this stage.

If the volcano was to blow, it could result in large cinders falling in residential areas.

Hattie Richardson, expert travel consultant at Inside Japan, said: "Sakurajima is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, releasing ash clouds every 4-24 hours, so residents in Kagoshima are used to waking up to dusty skies.

"This hasn't stopped many Japanese from making their home on the slopes of the volcano, where they have lived without needing to evacuate for over 50 years. Since the 8th century, its activity has been thoroughly documented and as such it remains very closely monitored for any eruptions to this very day."

The three towns closest to the mountain have been evacuated, with a spokeswoman for the city of Kagoshima stating that this has equated to 32 people, who have left their homes and are seeking shelter in community centres.

Ms Richardson added: "Sakurajima is actually separated from the main city of Kagoshima by a bay, and so it is only the residents on the island itself who have been affected by the evacuation warning.

"Official advice is that the city of Kagoshima itself is still safe to visit, but we are keeping all clients who will be in the area informed and are keeping an eye on the situation."

Kagoshima is a popular tourist destination, with many people comparing it to its sister city in Italy, Naples.

This comparison is mainly based on its temperate climate and palm-lined streets, but the looming spectre of Mount Sakurajima extends the similarities, as the equivalent of Naples' Vesuvius.

While trips to visit the volcano in Japan are currently not recommended, the gardens, parks, museums and aquarium in Kagoshima are still open for business.

Since the five-point scale system for volcanic alerts was introduced to Japan eight years ago, this is the first time Mount Sakurajima has registered a four.

Small eruptions are common, however, with around 700 of these having been detected already this year.

Due to the fact that Japan is situated on the Pacific Rim of Fire, it counts 110 active volcanoes among its landmarks.

This means the nation is well set up with infrastructure to monitor seismic activity and the potential for eruption, with the 47 most volatile volcanoes being closely surveyed 24 hours a day.

Evacuation orders, although rare, allow people to be transported to a safe place well in advance of any eruption to ensure everybody's safety.

Related news stories:
Eruption at Mount Aso on Japan's Kyushu Island (14th September 2015)