Twelve people, including eight soldiers, skiing on the slopes of a volcano near a famous hot spring resort in central Japan were injured Tuesday by flying rocks during a sudden eruption, officials said.
A torrent of rocks reportedly hit the ski slopes following the eruption of Mount Kusatsu-Shirane, a 7,090ft volcano, in Gunma prefecture, north of Tokyo.
The Japanese military confirmed that six soldiers were among those who were initially buried by the avalanche, all of whom were rescued.
An avalanche was reported at an area ski resort, but what if any connection there is to the eruption remains unclear.
The agency said there had been no warning signs for Tuesday's eruption. A cloud of black smoke later drifted in.
Video footage from the top of the resort's gondola showed skiers gliding down the slopes as black rocks plummeted from the skies and snow billowed up as they struck the ground, sometimes just missing skiers.
Several of the injured people were hit by falling rocks. Images showed the windows of the gondola had shattered.More news: Australian Open: Nadal bows out as Edmund shocks Dimitrov
More news: Winter storm bears down on region
More news: Jennifer Lawrence nominated for Razzie Award as year's Worst Actress
The other five were rescued, but some of them were injured, he said.
According to the Meteorological Agency, this was the first time Mt. Kusatsu Shirane has erupted since 1983. Officials are still investigating and originally thought an avalanche had caused the carnage but later corrected that account.
A police source said at one point that the number of injured totalled 12, with two of them in serious condition, adding they included GSDF members.
"Today an eruption occurred" at the volcano, agency official Makoto Saito told reporters.
It was unclear whether the avalanche was caused by the volcanic activity, but they occurred almost simultaneously. Additionally, the volcanic warning level was moved up from level 1 to level 3 (the highest level is 5).
An official said a nearby ski resort suffered damage from falling rocks.
When Mount Vesuvius erupted, it destroyed the entire city of Pompeii and Stabiae in Italy, leaving the place completely covered in ash and lava. On September 27, 2014, Japan suffered its deadliest eruption in nearly 90 years when Mt Ontake, in central Nagano prefecture, burst unexpectedly to life.