Mount Aso in southern Japan sent huge plumes of gray smoke as high as 11 kilometers (6.8 miles) into the air on Saturday in one of the volcano’s biggest explosions in years. The Japan Meteorological Agency said the explosion in the early hours of Saturday also blew off bits of volcanic rock and ash and raised the alert level for the area, extending the entry ban from just around the volcanic mouth to the mountain itself.

Footage on Japan’s NHK public television showed orange flames flickering from several locations on the mountaintop as the volcano emitted thick gray smoke billowing into the sky. There are no homes within the off-limit area and no injuries or major damage have been reported in nearby towns, though buildings and cars were covered with thick ash falls. Flights were largely unaffected, except for some delays. READ MORE