Hikers Stranded As Japanese Volcano Erupts

Mount Ontake, a volcano in central Japan, erupted in spectacular fashion on Saturday, stranding hikers near the summit and injuring several as the area was covered in rock and ash.

Seven people were left seriously injured, while eight were knocked unconscious, according to Reuters. Two hundred and fifty hikers found themselves stranded near the summit of the volcano, police stated. The event marked the first eruption at Mount Ontake in seven years, though there was no sign of lava from TV footage.

The volcano erupted shortly before noon, sending a white plume into the sky and depositing ash on the surrounding areas. Aircraft were diverted from the region, and Japan's meteorological agency raised the alert level for the volcano to 3 on a scale of 5, according to ABC News. The agency warned people to stay away from the volcano, and indicated that ash or other debris could fall as far as 2.5 miles away from the mountain.

"It was like thunder," a woman related to broadcaster NHK. "I heard boom, boom, then everything went dark."

Ontake volcano is situated 125 miles West of Tokyo on the border that separates Nagano and Gifu prefectures on Honshu, Japan's main island. With an elevation of 3,067-meters (10,062-feet), the volcano is popular with hikers, many of whom were caught unawares by the eruption.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe issued instructions to mobilize Japan's military for the rescue effort, while 80 Nagano police officers were sent to the mountain to assist climbers on their way down.

"Nearly 200 people are in the process of descending the mountain, but we are still trying to figure out details. I instructed to do all we can to rescue the people affected and secure the safety of the trekkers," Abe said.

Earlier this year, researchers warned that Mt.Fuji, the most well-known volcano in Japan, was in a critical state, raising fears that an eruption may be imminent. As The Inquisitr reported, Fujisan hasn't erupted since 1707.

Kiso Prefectural Hospital, located near the volcano, dispatched a medical emergency team to assist hikers. A hospital official related that they were preparing to treat many injuries, expecting the imminent arrival of the victims. Thanks to the changing autumn leaves, this is one of the busiest seasons for hikers on Mount Ontake.

More than five hours after the initial eruption, the volcano showed no signs of abating, according to Japanese media.

[Image: YouTube/Pokota Simpson via Twitter]