japan mount ontake volcano erupts_00002321.jpg
Volcanic ash envelops hikers
03:09 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

NEW: A nearby village task force reports 16-20 inches of ash on the ground

Local authorities say there were about 150 hikers in the area when Ontake erupted

The Volcanic Alert Level has been raised from 1 to 3

The volcano last erupted in 2007

CNN  — 

Mount Ontake erupted late Saturday morning, sending a plume of smoke and ash into the sky, the Japan Meteorological Agency reported.

At least three people have been injured, said a task force in Otaki village, just south of the volcano. They have observed 17-20 inches (40-50 centimeters) of volcanic ash covering the ground.

Local authorities said there were roughly 150 hikers in the area at the time, according to the agency, which raised the Volcanic Alert Level for Ontake from 1 to 3.

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The public is advised to not approach the volcano, and police and firefighters have deployed to help hikers near the summit.

About 250 people living near the mountain have decided to remain in their homes, police said.

The volcano last erupted in 2007.

It is located about 155 miles (250 kilometers) west of Tokyo.

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CNN’s Junko Ogura contributed to this report.