Japanese volcano spews plumes of ash, people warned away


A video grab from the Japan Meteorological Agency's live camera image shows an eruption of Mount Asama, Nagano prefecture, central Japan, August 7, 2019. Japan Meteorological Agency/Handout via REUTERS

TOKYO (Reuters) -A volcano erupted in Japan on Wednesday, blasting ash several miles into the sky and prompting officials to warn against the threat of lava flows and falling rocks, but there were no reports of injuries or casualties.

Mount Aso, a tourist destination on the main southern island of Kyushu, sent plumes of ash 3.5 km (2.2 miles) high when it erupted at about 11:43 a.m. (0243 GMT), the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

It raised the alert level for the volcano to 3 on a scale of 5, telling people not to approach, and warned of a risk of large falling rocks and pyroclastic flows within a radius of about 1 km (0.6 mile) around the mountain's Nakadake crater.

Local police said there were no reports of people injured or missing as of Wednesday evening, and that 16 people who had gone hiking on the mountain earlier on the day came back safely.

Television networks broadcast images of a dark cloud of ash looming over the volcano that swiftly obscured large swathes of the mountain.

Ash falls from the 1,592-metre (5,222-foot) mountain in the prefecture of Kumamoto are expected to shower nearby towns until late afternoon, the weather agency added.

Mount Aso had a small eruption in 2019, while Japan's worst volcanic disaster in nearly 90 years killed 63 people on Mount Ontake in September 2014.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park, additional reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Kim Coghill)

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