An avalanche in a Central Japan ski resort popular with tourists has seen the death of one man, while 16 more were injured.
According to news reports from 9 News, the avalanche was considered to be triggered when a volcano erupted, with a number of injuries resulting from flying rock after the eruption of Mount Kusatsu-Shirane.
Per the ABC, five of the civilian skiers suffered serious injuries such as broken bones, but none of the injuries were life-threatening. The man who passed away was a Japanese soldiers from the Ground Self Defence Force (SDF).
He was part of a group of 30 soldiers who were participating in ski training when they were buried by the avalanche.
About 80 skiers were forced to take refuge at a gondola station at the top of the ski slope, while Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters that seven people trapped by the avalanche at the ski resort on the side of the active volcano had all been rescued.
A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) spokesperson said in a statement to 9 News that no Australians were affected.
According to local rescuers, stones from the eruption of Mount Moto-Shirane, which is part of Mount Kusatsu-Shirane, shattered the glass of a gondola lift, which left at least four people on board injured.
Local rescuers also told media that stones crashed through the roof of a rest house where about 100 people had evacuated, per The Japan Times.
“I was scared to death,” said a 71-year-old man from Tokyo, who was left stranded in a gondola for half an hour.
Per The Japan Times, a 52-year-old woman said she heard a bang when she was on a slope near the peak, and took shelter in the basement of a gondola station.
“I thought I was going to die,” she said.
The ski area’s gondola was suspended following the eruption, and the Japan Meteorological Agency has since banned access to the mountain, which has become cloaked in dark ash.
Per the ABC, a military helicopter airlifted the first group of eight skiers to safer ground, with one skier telling NHK they had “absolutely no idea what had happened”.
Following the eruption, the weather agency raised the volcanic alert status from 1 to 3 — on a scale of 5 — a level that restricts entry to the mountain, per The Japan Times.
The last time Kusatsu-Shirane erupted was in 1983.
Per the ABC, in 2014 another eruption, this time on Mount Ontake, killed around 60 people, with several Japanese volcanoes thought to be unstable following smaller eruptions in recent years.