Japan warns tourists to stay away from Mount Aso after eruption

An aerial view shows an eruption of Mount Aso in Aso, Kumamoto prefecture, southwestern Japan, in this photograph taken by Kyodo on Sept 14, 2015.
An aerial view shows an eruption of Mount Aso in Aso, Kumamoto prefecture, southwestern Japan, in this photograph taken by Kyodo on Sept 14, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS
Smoke spews from the eruptive crater of Mount Aso as police officers and firefighters conduct an evacuation operation in Aso, Kumamoto prefecture, southwestern Japan, in this photograph taken by Kyodo on Sept 14, 2015.
Smoke spews from the eruptive crater of Mount Aso as police officers and firefighters conduct an evacuation operation in Aso, Kumamoto prefecture, southwestern Japan, in this photograph taken by Kyodo on Sept 14, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan on Monday (Sept 14) warned tourists to keep away from the popular Mount Aso after it began belching smoke and ash into the air, the latest eruption in one of the world’s most volcanically active countries.

The authorities issued their third-highest alert and cancelled flights after the huge volcano on the south-western main island of Kyushu shot a column of ash several thousand metres into the clear sky.

The government said there were no immediate reports of injuries or casualties from the eruption, but the meteorological agency warned any tourists nearby to evacuate quickly.

At least seven domestic flights were cancelled due to the eruption, airlines said.

Mount Aso, a popular tourist spot, has been rumbling into life since last year and in August the meteorological agency also issued an alert after picking up increasing seismic activity around the volcano Sakurajima, south of Aso.

There are scores of active volcanoes in Japan, which sits on the so-called Ring of Fire, a tectonic zone that records a large proportion of the world’s earthquakes.

In June, search teams returned to the peak of Mount Ontake in central Nagano prefecture for the first time in eight months to look for the bodies of six climbers still missing after an eruption that killed dozens.

The shock explosion was Japan’s deadliest for almost 90 years, leaving an estimated 63 people dead, many of their bodies at least partially entombed in volcanic sludge.