YAKUSHIMA, Kagoshima - The roar of a thunderous explosion sounded, and a column of black volcanic smoke billowed high into the sky from Mt. Shindake on the Kuchinoerabujima island in Kagoshima Prefecture on Friday morning.
Shortly thereafter, the Japan Meteorological Agency raised the volcanic alert level to Level 5, issuing an evacuation directive to residents of the island.
It marked the first such alert since the system's introduction.
Residents hurried to evacuation centres once the directive was issued. Amid mounting anxiety, many of them said they wanted to evacuate to somewhere safer as soon as possible.
"Not very long after I heard a few roars that sounded like thunder, black smoke was everywhere in the sky, and ash started falling," said a 49-year-old local resident.
The man said the eruption occurred while he was performing construction work in the northwest area of a crater on the 626-meter-tall mountain.