Mount Aso, a volcano on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, has erupted, sending huge plumes of black and then white smoke 2,000 meters (6,560 feet) into the air.
The eruption Monday prompted authorities to raise the alert level for the area, banning people from approaching within 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) of the volcano’s mouth.
There are no homes within that area and there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.
The national television network NHK cited local police as saying they had evacuated the area near a ropeway on the mountain and were having other visitors move to lower elevations. Police were still checking to see if any hikers were in the restricted area.
The Japan Meteorological Agency said the eruption fired bits of volcanic rock, smoke and steam into the air. It was unclear if there was any volcanic flow from the mountain.
“This could happen a few times,” Yasuaki Sudo, a researcher at the Aso Volcano Museum, told NHK. “The most important thing is to stay out of the danger zone.”
The Japanese archipelago sits atop the Pacific “ring of fire” and has more than 100 volcanoes. Mount Aso had a smaller eruption in August and eruptions in 2014 that disrupted tourism in the area.