A number of people were injured following the eruption of Japan's Mount Kusatsu-Shirane volcano early Tuesday.
The volcanic activity triggered an avalanche resulting in about 15 people sustaining injuries. Black smoke could be seen billowing from the peak of the mountain after the eruption, according to the Kusatsu local government.
“Based on various measurements, we can say that the mountain appears to have erupted, but we are still trying to confirm facts on the ground,” a Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) official said.
Four people were swept away by the avalanche, one is believed to have been buried, authorities said. Six members of the ground self-defence force, who were conducting training exercise, were among the more than dozens who have been injured overall.
Another four people, in a gondola, were hurt by broken glass, chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said in a news conference.
Members of the ground defence force were dispatched to help with the rescue operation.
A small volcanic tremor was reportedly felt prior to the eruption. A warning was issued for possible falling rocks within a 2-kilometer radius of the range. Additionally, the volcanic warning level was moved up from level 1 to level 3 (the highest level is 5). Level 3 includes a ban implemented to prohibit visitors from entering the areas surrounding the mountain.
An official said a nearby ski resort suffered damage from falling rocks. The resort was believed to be housing about 80 skiers at the time of the eruption.
Mount Kusatsu-Shirane is 2,160 meters high and situated in the town of Kusatsu, Gunma Prefecture. The mountain is one of 50 volcanic mountains that are under the surveillance of the JMA.
Japan has about 110 active volcanoes.
In September 2014, 63 people were killed on Mount Ontake – Japan's worst volcanic disaster in almost a century.