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Volcanic Eruption in central Japan

Twelve people, including eight soldiers, skiing on the slopes of a volcano near a famous hot spring resort in central Japan were injured Tuesday by flying rocks during a sudden eruption, officials said. One soldier later died.

The eruption quickly darkened the ski slope at Mount Kusatsu-Shirane with black ash, as volcanic rocks rained down on gondolas and people skiing down the slopes, sending them desperately seeking shelter at a mountaintop station.

The eight soldiers were in a group of 30 who were undergoing ski training and were close to the mountain’s peak when they were hit by the volcanic rocks, defense officials said.

The officials had originally said the injuries were caused by an avalanche, but later corrected that account.

One of the soldiers, who was slightly injured, said he took refuge in a forest by the ski slope after seeing black smoke and volcanic rocks shooting into the air. When visibility improved about 10 minutes later, he found several fellow soldiers fallen to the ground, Kyodo News reported.

The four civilian skiers did not have life-threatening injuries, Gunma prefectural disaster officials said.

Only the crater had been off-limits because of low-level volcanic activity before Mount Kusatsu-Shirane erupted around 10 a.m. The Japan Meteorological Agency has since banned access to the mountain.

The agency said the eruption and avalanche could not be linked immediately. Snow conditions and seismic activity are some of the possible causes of an avalanche. The eruption occurred in an area considered less at threat from volcanic activity, and officials were caught off guard, agency official Makoto Saito told reporters. No warning had been issued to visitors.

Source:
TIME. January 23, 2018. By MARI YAMAGUCHI. Skier Killed by Flying Rocks During Sudden Volcanic Eruption. http://time.com/5114831/japan-volcano-injures-skiers/