Japan's largest active volcano violently erupted on Wednesday, prompting the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) to warn about lava flows and falling rocks.
JMA issued a level 3 on a scale of 5 alerts for Mount Aso, a popular destination on the main southern island of Kyushu. A level 3 means "do not approach the volcano" and urged tourists and residents to avoid entering the danger zone due to the risk of falling rocks and pyroclastic flows about half a mile around the volcano.
Around 1143 local time (0243GMT), a column of ash discharged more than 2.1 miles into the atmosphere.
Mount Aso in Japan's Kyushu region has erupted. Smoke billowed out of the peak in Kumamoto Prefecture, starting at 11:43 a.m. on Wednesday. pic.twitter.com/n3YvBdnxkt— NHK WORLD News (@NHKWORLD_News) October 20, 2021
🇯🇵 #Japón 🌋 El monte #Aso (Asosan) entró en erupción a las 11:43 hora local, la columna eruptiva se eleva a 3.5 km sobre el cráter y se dispersa hacia el sureste. Estuvo acompañado por flujos piroclásticos de 1 km de extensión— EarthQuakesTime (@EarthQuakesTime) October 20, 2021
🟠 Ascienden a #AlertaNaranja (Nivel 3)
A volcano erupted in the southern island of Kyushu in Japan, blasting ash several miles into the sky and prompting officials to warn against the threat of lava flows https://t.co/9oiPRzMYMZ pic.twitter.com/LpDqbS8tjE— Reuters (@Reuters) October 20, 2021
There have been no reports of casualties, but officials told local media outlets that authorities are searching for hikers who had been trapped or injured.
"Caution is warranted even in far-away areas downwind, as the wind may carry not just ash but also pebbles," JMA official Tomoaki Ozaki told reporters, warning that toxic gases may also have been emitted.
Mount Aso had a minor eruption in 2019, while Japan's most devastating volcanic disaster in nine decades killed 63 people on Mount Ontake in September 2014.
Japan is one of the most volcanically active countries globally, sitting on the "Ring of Fire," where quakes and volcanic eruptions are common.
Another problem area in the world is the ongoing volcanic eruption on La Palma, one of Spain's Canary Islands, off northwestern Africa, for over a month.