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The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) has warned people to stay away from Mount Aso on the southern island of Kyushu after propelling columns of gas and ash miles into the sky. There are no reports of injuries to date.

Mount Aso, the country’s most active volcano, erupted at around 11:48 a.m. on Wednesday. Located in an area popular with hikers, it sent spectacular ash plumes 3.5 km (2.2 miles) high.

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The weather agency set the alert level for people near the 1,592-meter (5,222-foot) volcano at three out of five on its danger scale. Due to the risk of large rock falls and pyroclastic flows within 1 km (0.6 mile) of the vast Nakadake Crater, people have been urged not to approach the area.

“Human lives are our priority and we are working with the Self-Defense Forces, police and firefighters to deal effectively with the situation. “ Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters.

JMA representative Tomoaki Ozaki told a televised press conference that poisonous gases could also be emitted from the volcano.

CCTV footage from the nearby Aso Volcano Museum and its parking lot captured the moment the smoking crater erupted. People can be seen rushing to their cars and moving away at high speed from the dark cloud of ash encroaching on the site.

Local police said there were no reports of victims or missing persons so far. They noted that 16 hikers who were on the mountainside earlier in the day had returned unharmed.

Japan is home to over 100 volcanoes and the seismic activity in the region is high. As of Thursday, a half-mile exclusion zone was established around Mount Aso after a minor eruption.

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