Mount Aso erupts without warning in Japan

Area evacuated as huge plumes of smoke billow into sky

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The Independent Online

A volcano on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu has erupted unexpectedly, sending huge clouds of smoke 2,000 metres into the air.

There have been no immediate reports of injuries or damage since Mount Aso’s eruption on Monday and authorities have raised the alert level in the area, preventing people from approaching within 1.25 miles of the volcano’s mouth.

Local police said they have safely evacuated people from a ropeway station on the mountain and other visitors have been moved to lower elevations, according to national television network NHK.

Police are still checking to see if any hikers were in the restricted area during the eruption.

Some flights to the nearby city of Kumamoto have been diverted due ash released into the air.

It is still unclear as to whether there was any volcanic flow from the mountain.

Yasuaki Sudo, a researcher at the Aso Volcano Museum, told NHK: “The most important thing is to stay out of the danger zone.”

The Japanese archipelago sits on the Pacific “ring of fire” and has more than 100 volcanoes.

Mount Aso had a smaller eruption in August and eruptions in 2014 that disrupted tourism in the area.

The eruption last September of another volcano, Mount Ontake in central Japan, killed 57 people.

Additional reporting by Associated Press