A torrent of rocks reportedly hit the ski slopes following the eruption of Mount Kusatsu-Shirane, a 7,090ft volcano, in Gunma prefecture, north-west of Tokyo.
Six members of Japan’s Ground Self-Defence Forces who were conducting a winter training exercise in the area were among those rescued, with one of the group later dying from his injuries.
At least 12 skiers on the mountainside were also injured by the avalanche or falling volcanic rocks, including five seriously, according to local media. Three people caught in the avalanche were rescued, Japanese media said on Tuesday. Among the injured were four people hurt by shattering glass while on a gondola, and about 100 people were evacuated from the area.
“There was this huge boom, and a big plume of totally black smoke rose up,” one skier told NHK. “I had absolutely no idea what had happened.”
Video footage from the top of the resort’s gondola showed black rocks plummeting through the sky, followed by a curtain of black smoke. A photograph shown on national broadcaster NHK showed a gondola with a shattered window.
Japan has 110 active volcanoes and monitors 47 of them around the clock. In September 2014, 63 people were killed on Mount Ontake, the worst volcanic disaster in Japan for nearly 90 years.