TOKYO (AP) — A volcano erupted in central Japan on Saturday, catching mountain climbers by surprise and seriously injuring at least one person.
With a sound likened to thunder, Mt. Ontake spewed large white plumes high into the sky, sending people fleeing and covering surrounding areas in ash.
Several people were injured, including one who was unconscious, according to Japanese media reports.
The 3,067-meter (10,062-foot) peak erupted shortly before noon on a bright sunny autumn morning. In a YouTube video shown on Japanese TV, surprised climbers can be seen moving quickly away from the peak as an expanding plume emerges above and then engulfs them.
One witness, talking to Japanese broadcaster NHK, said the eruption started with large booms like thunder. It also reported that people had been evacuated from a mountain lodge.
Japan’s meteorological agency raised the alert level for Mt. Ontake to three on a scale of one to five. It warned people to stay away from the mountain, saying ash and other debris could fall up to 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) away.
Mt. Ontake sits on the border of Nagano and Gifu prefectures on the spine of mountains that runs down Honshu, Japan’s main island.