Residents in a southern Japanese city accustomed to frequent eruptions from a nearby volcano were busy washing ash off the streets Monday after the mountain spewed a record-high smoke plume into the sky.
Ash wafted as high as 5 kilometers (3 miles) above the Sakurajima volcano in the southern city of Kagoshima on Sunday afternoon, forming the highest plume since the Japan Meteorological Agency started keeping records in 2006. Lava flowed about 1 kilometer (.6 miles) from the fissure, with several huge volcanic rocks rolling down the mountainside.
Residents wore masks and raincoats and used umbrellas to shield themselves from the falling ash. Drivers turned on their headlights in the dull evening gloom, and railway service in the city was halted temporarily so ash could be removed from the tracks.
Officials said no injuries or damage have been reported.
By Monday morning, the air was clearer as masked residents sprinkled water and swept up the ash. The city was mobilizing garbage trucks and water sprinklers to clean up.
But business largely returned to normal in the city of 600,000 people living only 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the volcano whose eruptions are part of their daily life.
"The smoke was a bit dramatic, but we are kind of used to it," said a city official who requested anonymity because he was not allowed to speak to the media.
Sunday's eruption was the 500th this year of Sakurajima, a statement from the city said.
JMA says there are no signs of a larger eruption but similar activity may continue. It maintains an earlier warning that people not venture near the volcano itself.
Japan is on the "Ring of Fire," the seismic faults encircling the Pacific Ocean, and has frequent earthquakes and volcanic activity.
Explore further: NASA balloons begin flying in Antarctica for 2014 campaign