More than 31 people are feared dead near the peak of the Japanese volcano that erupted a day earlier, sending a huge cloud of ash and rock tumbling down its slopes, while packed with hikers.
Police said they were found in a state of “cardiopulmonary” arrest, but declined to confirm their deaths pending a formal examination, as per Japanese custom.
More than 500 Japanese troops and police had set out on Sunday to search the peak of Mount Ontake, a day after its sudden eruption trapped hundreds on the mountain for hours, amid conflicting reports about missing and injured climbers.
Volcanoes erupt periodically in Japan, one of the world’s most seismically active nations, but there have been no fatalities since 1991, when 43 people died in a pyroclastic flow, a superheated current of gas and rock, on Mount Unzen in south-western Japan.
An official at the volcano division of the Japan Meteorological Agency said that, while there had been a rising number of small earthquakes detected at Mount Ontake since September 10, the eruption could not have been predicted easily.
developments continue to be reported