Tokyo: A woman was confirmed dead and about 16 other people remained unconscious after a volcano erupted in central Japan shortly before noon Saturday, the media reported, saying the eruption also injured dozens, with 25 in serious condition.
Ash spewed from the volcano, named the Ontake that straddles Nagano and Gifu prefectures in central Japan, has accumulated about 50 cm at the top of the mountain, said reports, adding that the ash would fall into prefectures of Nagano, Gifu and Yamanashi Saturday evening.
Japanese Defence Minister Akinori Eto said the ministry has dispatched about 70 members of the Self-Defence Forces and four rescue vehicles to the disaster site, Xinhua reported.
The local fire department said they received several emergency calls on injured climbers and about 250 hikers were trapped on the mountain and in a hotel near the top of the volcano.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said some 200 climbers were trying to get down from the mountain, as some were trapped at the top.
He said the rescue work could not be immediately carried out Saturday due to the potential of secondary disaster and rescue teams might be sent Sunday.
The eruption caused two Jetstar flights bound for Narita airport near Tokyo from Australia to divert to Kansai airport in western Japan, said Japan's Kyodo News.
The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) upgraded its five-stage volcanic alert level to 3, which urges people not to approach the mountain and is forecasting further eruptions that may affect nearby residents. It has also warned of large volcanic cinders falling within a four-km radius of the crater.
The volcano's last eruption was in 1979 when it spurted over 200,000 tonnes of ash. It also went through a minor eruption in 1991 and caused multiple volcanic earthquakes in 2007, according to media reports.