When one thinks of Japan and natural disaster, the things that usually come to mind are earthquakes, tsunamis, radioactive lizards, the occasional massive nuclear power plant explosion. Not volcanoes - those are usually delegated to the sole country that dared to give bankers the middle finger, Iceland. And yet, overnight Japan declared a level 3 alert (on a scale of 1 to 5) when a volcano in central Japan erupted, sending ash clouds down the mountain’s slope for more than 3 kilometers. According to RT, at least one person has died and 70 were injured, while aircraft have been forced to divert to avoid the dangerous area. Medics confirmed the death of at least one person, while 70 more were reported to be injured, NHK reported. Thirty of the injured have been sent to hospital in critical condition, health officials added. One can only hope there were no nuclear power plants in the immediate vicinity of the volcano.
According to Japan's NHK, the Ontake volcano on the border of Nagano and Gifu prefectures, 200 kilometers west of Tokyo, started erupting at about 11:53 local time (02:53 GMT). The Japanese TV outlet released the following video showing the volcano spewing thick, gray smoke into the air.
More from NBC:
The Meteorological Agency said the volcano 125 miles west of Tokyo erupted just before midday and sent ash pouring down the mountain's south slope for more than two miles. The eruption forced aircraft to divert their routes, but officials at Tokyo's Haneda airport and Japan Airlines said there were no disruptions to flights in and out of Tokyo. NHK quoted a Nagano prefectural official as telling a government meeting that seven people were unconscious and eight people were seriously wounded.
But while Tokyo may be safe for now, the immediate vicinity is in a air transit lockdown: "Airplanes are diverting their flying routes to avoid the ash cloud,"Makoto Hasegawa of the Nagano prefecture fire department told Reuters.
RT adds that a local eyewitness told NHK that small rocks were being hurled into the air along with the ash. "It was like thunder," she said. "I heard boom, boom – then everything went dark." Japan’s Meteorological Agency declared a level 3 volcano alert on a 1 to 5 scale, which means people are advised to stay away from the mountain. The agency warned that the debris from the volcano could fall as far as 4 kilometers away.
Stratovolcano Ontake (Ontake-san) is the second highest volcano in Japan at 3,067 meters. It is also a popular destination for religious pilgrimages.
It was inactive until 1979, but then it underwent a series of eruptions. The latest was in 2007.
Finally, some local reports "on the ground"
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