Volcano covers city in ash

A volcano has erupted in south-west Japan and coated a nearby city with a layer of ash.

People in Kagoshima wore raincoats and used umbrellas to shield themselves from the ash after the Sakurajima volcano erupted yesterday afternoon.

Local media said drivers had to turn on their headlights and reported the ash resembled driving through snow at night.

Kyodo News said the plume was 5,000 meters high and lava flowed about a kilometre from the fissure.

It also said that railway operators stopped service in the city while ash was removed from the tracks. It reported that no one has been hurt.

Japan has frequent seismic activity. Kyodo cited the Japan Meteorological Agency as saying there are no signs of a larger eruption at Sakurajima but similar activity may continue.

By morning, the air was clearer as masked residents sprinkled water and swept up the ash. The city was mobilising garbage trucks and water sprinklers to clean up.

But business largely returned to normal in the city of 600,000 people living only 10 kilometres (six 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. The eruption was the 500th this year of Sakurajima, a statement from the city said.

JMA said there are no signs of a larger eruption but similar activity may continue. It maintains an earlier warning that people should not venture near the volcano itself.

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