Hundreds of thousands of people are standing by to evacuate their homes after scientists warned a huge volcanic eruption is likely nearby.
Around 600,000 residents of the Japanese city of Kagoshima are on alert after seismologists voiced concerns that a rain of fire and stones could fall on the city if the volcano of Sakurajima erupts.
Sakurajima last erupted in 2013, killing an estimated 63 people.
Following the warning, a plume of volcanic ash has been seen rising from the crater and officials have confirmed a ‘small eruption’ has taken place.
At night, the sky above the volcano glows red as clouds reflect the colour from molten magma and lava below.
Ring of fire
Around 5,000 people live at the foot of the volcano and tens of thousands more live in the city, which is less than three miles away.
The announcement came just days after engineers switched a nuclear power station online for the first time since the tragic Fukushima tsunami hit Japan in 2011.
Critics had urged the government to keep the power station at Sendai offline as the country’s nuclear plants are sited on the notorious Asia Pacific ring of fire.
Scientists had already warned of another volcano erupting nearby in October 2014.
The ring of fire is where tectonic plates meet deep underground. Their movement triggers earthquakes and volcanic eruptions which can lead to deadly tsunamis.
Japan has at least 100 active volcanos and is subject to regular seismic activity.
The country is one of the most seismically active in the world.
Some scientists and engineers claim that the country’s nuclear power stations are a disaster waiting to happen because they are built on the ring of fire.
The Japanese Meteorological Agency said: “The area around Sakurajima has displayed some unusual seismic activity and we fear another eruption may occur soon.
“We have warned people living nearby of our findings and told them to make ready to evacuate the city at short notice.”
Engineers explained they had noted the warning but felt no issues impacted on the switch-on.
In recent months, safety concerns about the Sendai power plant have been investigated by the national nuclear power regulators and a legal challenge to stop the plant reopening was rejected by courts.
Protesters have also demonstrated at the plant and outside Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s official residence.