Japan's Mount Aso lets off steam

An aerial view of Mount Aso erupting in Aso, Kumamoto prefecture, Japan yesterday. The Japan Meteorological Agency has raised the alert level for the volcano to level three on a scale of five.
An aerial view of Mount Aso erupting in Aso, Kumamoto prefecture, Japan yesterday. The Japan Meteorological Agency has raised the alert level for the volcano to level three on a scale of five.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO • A volcano on Japan's main southern island of Kyushu has erupted, the Japan Meteorological Agency said, spewing volcanic ash 11,000m into the sky.

Police and municipal governments said there were no reports of injuries from Mount Aso's eruption, which began at 1.46am Saturday local time (12.46am Singapore time) on one of the peaks of the 1,592m mountain in Kumamoto Prefecture.

It was the first "explosive eruption" at the peak since January 1980, according to the meteorological agency.

The agency raised the alert level for the volcano to level three on a scale of five, telling people not to approach the mountain and warning of falling rocks. It also warned of falling ash in 10 prefectures.

TV footage showed volcanic ash had accumulated on cars, houses and roads in the city of Aso, and ash was falling as far as 320km away, Japanese media said. Farmers have reported that some vinyl greenhouses where tomatoes and asparagus were being grown 6km to 8 km away from the crater had been broken by ash and small rocks.

A window was cracked by a falling rock at an Aso youth centre about 5km away from the crater, but there were no reports of injuries, an official at Aso's City Hall said.

"We are concerned that more damage on crops will be reported," the official said.

Kyushu Electric Power Co said the eruption had no impact on its Sendai nuclear plant, which is about 160km south of Mount Aso and is one of the two reactors that are online in Japan.

Up to 29,000 households lost power shortly after the eruption, but the problem was fixed in less than two hours, a spokesman at Kyushu Electric said.

Mount Aso is one of the most active peaks in Japan and also a popular hiking spot.

Japan lies on the "Ring of Fire", a horseshoe-shaped band of fault lines and volcanoes around the edges of the Pacific Ocean, and is home to more than 100 active volcanoes.

Mount Ontake in central Japan erupted unexpectedly in 2014, killing 63 people in the worst volcanic disaster in Japan for nearly 90 years. Mount Aso also erupted in September last year.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 09, 2016, with the headline 'Japan's Mount Aso lets off steam'. Print Edition | Subscribe