Japan: avalanche engulfs skiers after volcano erupts at ski resort

Ann Santiago
January 25, 2018

Japan's Meteorological Agency, or JMA, reports that Mount Kusatsu-Shirane, located about 120 miles northwest of Tokyo, erupted early Tuesday.

Falling rocks killed a member of the Ground Self-Defense Force undergoing a ski training exercise and injured five other service members, two gravely, the Ministry of Defense said.

People who had sought refuge in the shelters at the resort or were in ski lifts at the time of the avalanche were wounded by rocks hurled by the eruption.

A reported volcanic eruption near a ski resort in central Japan has injured at least nine people, with footage of the eruption's aftermath showing a plume of black smoke billowing across the ski fields.

The agency also said the eruption and the avalanche could not be linked immediately.

The falling rocks kicked clouds of snow into the air as they made impact. "Volcanic rocks rained down on the roof of the gondola". A photograph on national broadcaster NHK showed a gondola with a shattered window.

Only its crater had been off-limits because of low-level volcanic activity.

All of the people were rescued, but a 49-year-old male soldier who suffered broken bones later died, an official at the regional military training camp said.

'Not all towns will be affected at the same time so people can not be complacent, Laguerta said.

One person was trapped in the avalanche for some time before being dug out by rescuers. Snow conditions and seismic activity are some of the possible causes of an avalanche.

More than 40,000 people have already fled since smoke and ash started spewing from the mountain, with scientists warning of the danger of an explosive eruption and authorities urging people not to be complacent.

Weather agency officials have said they were unable to visually confirm the eruption and were only able to notify people on the mountain about an hour later that an eruption seemed to have occurred.

Japan, with scores of active volcanoes, sits on the so-called Pacific "Ring of Fire" where a large proportion of the world's quakes and volcanic eruptions are recorded.

Back in September 2014, Mount Ontake played host to the worst volcanic disaster in the country for almost 90 years after a violent eruption killed 63 people.

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