The active volcano located in Kumamoto Prefecture on the island of Kyushu erupted at 9:43 am this morning. No injuries have been reported.
According to the Japan Meteorological Agency –quoted on the Kyodo news wire – Mt. Aso shot up plumes of smoke and ash 2,000 meters into the air. Warning of the danger posed by falling rocks or toxic smoke, the JMA increased the volcanic alert level for the mountain to 3, on a scale of 5. This alert level means that people should not approach the volcano. About 30 tourists were in the vicinity of the crater at the time of the eruption, but they were taken to safety without incident.
Some flights to Kumamoto Airport, which is approximately 20 kilometers of Mt. Aso, were diverted to other local airports.
Despite being one of the more active volcanos in Japan, the 1,592-meter-tall peak is a popular sightseeing spot, and the surrounding area is a hikers’ favorite. A smaller eruption on August 8 led the JMA to declare an alert level of 2 at the time.
The Reuters news service reported that Kyushu Electric Power Company, which operates the newly restarted Sendai Plant in Kagoshima (located some 160 kilometers to the south of Mt. Aso), said that operations at the plant would not be effected by the eruption.
Japan is one of the most tectonically and volcanically active countries in the world: there are more than 100 active volcanos in the country. Last September, Mt. Ontake in central Japan erupted violently, killing 63 people.
Image: Screengrab from NHK video