The sudden and powerful eruption of a volcano Saturday may have killed more than 30 hikers in central Japan, according to authorities who have made their way up the side of Mt. Ontake. Officials say the hikers were found close to the mountain's peak, in cardiac and respiratory arrest.
As the AP reports, "The victims have been described as not breathing and their hearts have stopped, which is the customary way for Japanese authorities to describe a body until police doctors can examine it."
More than 200 hikers survived Saturday's eruption, which sent a huge cloud of ash racing down the mountainside in a scene caught on video by a hiker whose climbing party scrambled for shelter. Additional survivors were found today, as 550 rescue workers scoured the mountain.
Any fatalities would be the first deaths from a volcano in Japan since 1991, reports The Japan Times. The eruption injured more than 30 people, and experts say the volcano remains very dangerous, warning people to stay away.
At least seven hikers were rescued from the mountain by helicopter, reports Japan's national NHK News. But officials fear the worst for the people they found in deep distress today.
From Kyodo News:
"Rescuers began taking four of the 31 down the 3,067-meter (10,062 feet) volcano and rescued 24 others after resuming operations in the morning following their suspension on Saturday, but the search was halted again in the afternoon due to toxic gas."
The volcano struck at a busy time on Mt. Ontake, as hikers were using rope lines to make their way to the summit to enjoy views of the colorful fall foliage. Other visitors were in lodges on the mountainside. But in moments, the air and landscape were covered with ash and small rocks when the volcano erupted just before noon Saturday.
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