TOKYO – Rescue teams were forced on Wednesday to suspend a search operation at a ski resort in northern Japan – that was hit by a volcanic eruption and an avalanche – following fresh volcanic tremors.
Firefighters and the police were searching for people who might still be tapped under the snow close to the Kusatsu-Shirane volcano – in the Gunma prefecture, north of Tokyo – which suddenly erupted Tuesday, killing one person and injuring around a dozen.
At a press conference Wednesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga stressed the need to review the way volcanoes were being monitored and response to such events.
Suga added security cameras had failed to capture Tuesday’s eruption, and that it took the Japan Meteorological Agency almost an hour to issue a volcanic eruption warning owing to a lack of visual confirmation, reported the Kyodo news agency.
Meanwhile, earlier in the day the JMA had warned of more eruptions and kept the alert at 3 on a scale of 5, urging people to stay away from the volcano.
The agency detected more than 600 volcanic tremors on Tuesday, but none was recorded between midnight and 9 am on Wednesday, after which seven tremors of varying magnitude have been registered, according to latest reports.
A 49-year-old soldier was killed after being hit by debris spewed by the volcano, which also triggered a near-simultaneous avalanche that hit the ski resort.
Another six soldiers, carrying out a drill nearby, were injured, apart from five skiers, who were rescued from a ski lift.
Tuesday’s eruption in Motoshirane, a 2,171 meter high volcano which forms the Mt. Kusatsu-Shirane along with the peaks of Shirane and Ainomine, was the first in around 3,000 years.
Japan is situated on the so-called “Pacific Ring of Fire,” and has 110 active volcanoes.