SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Tokyo – Efforts to recover bodies from an erupting volcano in central Japan resumed Wednesday, after search teams had been hampered by gas and hot ash shooting into the air.
Police said 12 more bodies were discovered on Mount Ontake, bringing the total number of known victims from the weekend eruption to 48.
Thirty bodies have now been taken down from the mountain, with 25 people identified and confirmed dead so far, according to the Nagano prefectural police.
Ontake unleashed a huge cloud of ash late Saturday morning that billowed down the mountainside and engulfed hikers in its path. Witnesses described hearing a sound like thunder when the eruption began.
Authorities estimated there were 200 to 250 hikers in the area at the time of the eruption. Most of them were reported to have managed to make the long trek down the mountain.
But some people remained trapped in several lodges on Ontake, and others were missing altogether, local authorities said.
Hundreds join search
As of Wednesday afternoon, soldiers from Japan’s Self Defense Force (SDF) joined hundreds of police and firefighters in the search, officials from the Nagano prefectural office told CNN. Some 11 helicopters were deployed in the mission, they added.
Though some of the victims were still being examined by the local coroner, the cause of death for those officially pronounced dead was recorded as injury from direct hits by volcanic cinders, police said.
The Japan Meteorological Agency — which has raised the Volcanic Alert Level for Ontake from 1 to 3, meaning the public is advised to not approach the volcano — has warned that another large eruption could take place in the next few days.
Mount Ontake, at 10,060 feet (3,067 meters), is the second tallest volcano in Japan after Mount Fuji, and a popular destination for hikers, especially in the fall when richly-colored autumn foliage is on display.
The last major eruption of Ontake, which is about 125 miles (200 kilometers) west of Tokyo, took place in 1979, according to the Global Volcanism Program at the Smithsonian Institute.
That eruption lasted months, spewing out more than 200,000 tons of ash, Japanese news agency Kyodo reported.