Sakurajima volcano in Kagoshima Prefecture, southwestern Japan, erupted Sunday, causing the eruption alert to be raised to its highest level, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

Volcanic stones fell up to 2.5 kilometers from the volcano, but there were no immediate reports of injuries following the eruption that occurred around 8:05 p.m., the agency and local police said.

Following the eruption, the agency raised its alert for the volcano from level 3 to 5 on its 5-point scale, warning the public to evacuate. It marks the first time that level 5 has been issued for the volcano.

Photo taken from a fixed camera in the Kagoshima Prefecture city of Tarumizu, southwestern Japan, shows Sakurajima volcano erupting on July 24, 2022. Sakurajima is connected to the Osumi Peninsula of Kyushu, Japan's southwestern main island. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

It is just the second time the highest alert level has been applied to a volcano in Japan following the 2015 eruption on Kuchinoerabu Island in Kagoshima Prefecture.

In the wake of Sunday's eruption, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida instructed his government to swiftly gather information on any damage caused and to set up ways to help local residents and hikers to evacuate.

The weather agency urged residents within a 3-km radius of the Minamidake and Showa craters to be aware of falling rocks, and called for strong caution against pyroclastic flows for those within a 2-km radius of the craters.

A local hotel operator told Kyodo News by phone that staff were evacuating in line with the eruption alert.

Since Monday, the agency has observed minor crustal movements indicating expansion of the volcano.

Sakurajima is one of the most active volcanoes in Japan and is connected to the Osumi Peninsula on Kyushu, the country's southwestern main island.