One dead as avalanche engulfs skiers after Japan volcano erupts

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TOKYO:  One man was killed and at least 11 people injured after rocks from an erupting volcano rained down on skiers at a mountain resort in central Japan yesterday.

An avalanche occurred almost simultaneously, engulfing at least a dozen skiers.

Six of those trapped were members of Japan's Ground Self Defence Force (SDF) on winter training, Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said.

All were rescued but most were injured and one of them later died, the Defence Ministry said.

Japanese media reported that at least 12 people were injured, many hit by volcanic rocks. Two were critically injured and three seriously, national broadcaster NHK said.

One person was trapped in the avalanche before being dug out by rescuers.

The Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) warned that further eruptions from Kusatsu-Shirane, a 2,160m volcano in Gunma prefecture, could not be ruled out and that rocks could be thrown as far as 2km from the peak.

Video footage from the top of the resort's gondola showed skiers gliding down the slopes as rocks plummeted from the skies. Snow billowed up as rocks struck the ground and a cloud of black smoke drifted in.

A photograph shown on NHK depicted a gondola with a shattered window. Several of the injuries were due to broken glass.

"Other people appeared to be hurt by the stones, which appeared to be around 10 to 20cm in size," a skier told NHK.

The resort lost power, leaving skiers suspended in gondolas for half an hour. - REUTERS