Last updated: 11:10 AM ET, Tue September 15 2015

Japanese Volcano Eruption Prompts Flight Cancellations

Impacting Travel | Patrick Clarke | September 15, 2015

Japanese Volcano Eruption Prompts Flight Cancellations

PHOTO: Mount Aso erupted around 10 a.m. local time Monday, disrupting flights at nearby Kumamato Airport. (Courtesy of Japanese National Tourist Office)

At least 20 flights were canceled in Japan Monday after the country's largest active volcano erupted, CNN reported, citing Japan's national public news network NHK.

The Japan Meteorological Agency confirmed via NHK that Mount Aso, located 20 miles east of Kumamota Airport and 550 miles southwest of Tokyo, erupted around 10 a.m. local time Monday, sending thick ash clouds into the air and disrupting operations at nearby Kumamoto Airport. 

The resulting black smoke climbed more than a mile high into the sky.

Japan's largest airline, All Nippon Airways, grounded a pair of flights that were scheduled to connect at Kumamoto, while the country's flag carrier, Japan Airlines, announced that flights to and from the airport were experiencing "irregular operations" as a result of the volcanic ash. 

Both airlines encouraged customers to check their flight status ahead of time given the uncertain conditions. 

"Today Sept. 15 and tomorrow Sept. 16, flights to and from Kumamoto Airport are operating as usual, at the moment," Japan Airlines' official website stated Tuesday. "Our flight operations are subject to the volcanic eruptions at Mt Aso. Before arriving at the airport we recommend checking domestic flight status and information for details for the latest information."

In response to the threat, officials have closed off a sizable area around Mount Aso and issued a warning to travelers to avoid the area. 

More than two dozen people, including some tourists, had to be evacuated from the area. However, no injuries have been reported. 

At this point, the country's meteorological agency has issued a level three warning on its five-level scale. "We found that the smoke rose not only vertically but also horizontally. The eruption could have pyroclastic flows," agency official Sadayuki Kitagawa told NHK.

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