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Sakurajima volcano erupts spectacularly in southern Japan

One of Japan's most active volcanoes has erupted spectacularly with a fiery blast that sent lava rolling down its slopes.

Japanese television showed an orange burst out of the side of Sakurajima, near the summit on the southern island of Kyushu, accompanied by lightning-like flashes. Dark grey smoke billowed into the sky.

The Meteorological Agency banned entry to the area, expanding an existing no-go zone around the crater to a 2km radius, according to public broadcaster NHK. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

The blast, while dramatic, was average compared with Sakurajima's past eruptions, Kyoto University volcanologist Kazuhiro Ishihara said. The mountain's last major eruption was in September.

He said rocks spewing out of the crater were expected to fall within the 2km zone. Smoke and ash rose 2km into the air, about half the height measured in 2013 in one of the mountain's biggest explosions in recent years, he said.

"I don't think there will be any serious impact from the explosion," Mr Ishihara said. "But of course we must keep monitoring the volcanic activity."

The Japanese archipelago is in the Pacific Ring of Fire, an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin which has more than 100 volcanoes. The 2014 eruption of Mount Ontake in central Japan killed 57 people.

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