More bodies found on Japanese volcano

2014-10-01 17:36
A Nagano Prefectural police officer covered by volcanic ash talks to the media after coming back from his mission to recover bodies still near the summit as Mount Ontake. (Koji Ueda, AP)

A Nagano Prefectural police officer covered by volcanic ash talks to the media after coming back from his mission to recover bodies still near the summit as Mount Ontake. (Koji Ueda, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Otaki - One body recovered near the volcano's peak was in a squatting position and had to be dug out of a thick layer of ash. Another was caught between boulders bigger than large refrigerators.

Police who recovered the bodies on Wednesday portrayed a painful scene of death around the summit where hikers enjoying an autumn weekend hike were caught by the mountain's surprise eruption.

The death toll from Saturday's eruption on Mount Ontake in central Japan rose to 47 after Wednesday's search, Nagano police said in a statement. Ash and gases spewed from the crater, and searchers wearing surgical masks and helmets carried devices to measure the toxicity of the gases to make sure it was safe to be on the slopes. Police apologised for saying earlier that the toll was 48, cited a miscount while carrying the bodies.

The death toll is the worst in postwar history, exceeding the 43 killed in the 1991 eruption of Mount Unzen in southern Japan.

Ground Self-Defence Forces helicopters brought the bodies to the foot of Ontake, known as one of Japan's 100 best mountains and topped by a shrine that attracts visitors. Prefectural and police officials said most bodies were found around the summit, where many climbers were resting or having lunch at the time of the surprise eruption.

Other victims were found at a slightly lower elevation that reportedly had little place to hide.

Nagano police riot unit leader Mamoru Yamazaki described the rescue scene as "severe".

His team, part of hundreds of rescuers dispatched on Wednesday, found some of the bodies outside of a lodge just below the mountaintop shrine and on a hiking trail leading to the area, Yamazaki said.

Rescuers used a special cutting machine to retrieve the body stuck between the two huge rocks, he said. They recovered four other bodies from slits between rocks.

No updates

Many victims were half-buried in the ash, others even deeper, he told reporters. Some of them were curled up in ducking positions, facing the crater to protect their heads from rocks flying out of it, while covering their face to avoid ash and fumes, Yamazaki said.

Yamazaki said rescuers retrieved all of the bodies that were visible, indicating that few, if any, people are still missing. Authorities have not released any updates on the number of missing because of conflicting initial information but have said they were checking closely.

The nearly 70 people who were injured in the eruption had bruises, cuts and broken bones in their backs, indicating flying rocks hit them as they fled down the slope. Survivors described hiding in rock crevasses or inside mountain lodges while smoke blackened the sky and ash covered the ground.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said levels of toxic gases were too low to cause health problems in distant towns, but cautioned residents that ash could cause eye irritation, particularly among contact lens users, or trigger asthmatic symptoms. In Otaki, a senior villager distributed surgical masks to the residents in the Takigoshi district Wednesday.

Before Saturday, seismologists had detected signs of increased seismic activity at Mount Ontake, one of Japan's 110 active volcanoes, but nothing signalled a fatal eruption.

Read more on:    japan  |  volcanoes

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.