JAPAN – A Japanese soldier died on Tuesday in an avalanche in central Japan apparently triggered by a volcanic eruption.
At least 15 people were also injured , several of them are in critical condition.
The eruption ejected rocks that fell over a kilometre area near Kusatsu in the central Prefecture of Gunma , according to local media.
Four people travelling in a lift chair in the complex at the time of the avalanche were among the injured.
Six members of the army, who were performing an exercise in the area, had to be rescued.
Mount Kusatsu-Shirane, 150 kilometres from Tokyo, erupted on Tuesday morning (local time), but it is not clear what triggered the avalanche.
“According to several measurements, we can say that the volcano seems to have exploded, but we are still trying to confirm the facts,” the Japan Meteorological Agency said, according to Reuters.
The agency issued a warning for people not to climb the mountain.
Initially, it was reported that a person had disappeared in the avalanche, but officials later confirmed that he was found and that he died.
Rain of rocks
According to state broadcaster NHK, some of the volcanic rocks fell more than 1 km away from the mountain.
The local media showed images of rocks falling and raising clouds of snow falling to the ground.
“The black smoke appeared on the top of the mountain and they told us to evacuate within 30 minutes,” a witness at the complex told Conspiracy Talk News, adding that about 100 people had been moved to safer locations.
The Japanese Fire and Disaster Management Agency warned that the rocks could be falling at a distance of up to 2 km from the peak, Reuters was quoted as saying.
Japan is one of the most seismically active nations in the world and closely monitors its volcanoes.
In September 2014, 63 people died in a sudden eruption of Mount Ontake.