AT LEAST seven people are believed missing and at least 40 injured following a volcano eruption in central Japan.
Emergency services including military rescue workers have attended the immediate scene and are reported to be trying to approach the 3,067 meter Mount Ontake area on foot.
The eruption has left the surrounding area under blankets of ash cloud rendering any helicopter rescue attempts as unachievable.
The eruption is believed to have taken place just before noon Japanese local time on September 27, white plumes of ash were ejected high into the sky giving the first indication of what the local people were about to witness, who without hesitation, both residents and visitors to the area started to flee.
Climbers stranded on the volcano were seen to flee close from the eruption site, with approximately 250 people initially trapped on the slopes. By nightfall (September 27) most had reached safety areas, where locals had made emergency shelters for those visiting and effected by the eruption.
An NHK journalist, Mikio Oguro was at the scene on an unrelated matter but explains how he saw ‘massive smoke coming out of the crater, blocking sunlight and reducing visibility to zero.’
He went onto say: “Massive ash suddenly fell and the entire area was totally covered with ash.
“My colleagues later told me that they thought they might die.”
Passenger airliners heading to Tokyo were diverted from their flight path to Kansal International Airport in western Japan for safety reasons.
Mount Ontake is approximately 210 kilometres west of Tokyo, sitting on the border of Nagano and Gifu prefectures. The volcano’s last significant eruption was in 1979.