More than 30 hikers were feared dead on Saturday when the Mount Ontake, a hikers’ spot in Nagano, 200 miles from Tokyo, saw volcano eruption on Saturday night and continued spewing ash and rocks endangering the weekend visitors. Reports of sulfur smell briefly disrupted rescue efforts, said official NHK television of Japan.
So far the rescue teams have recovered 31 bodies and more than 500 police, firefighters and military personnel were striving to bring down the stranded hikers, including some school children on stretchers and in helicopters.
Mount Ontake is a popular hiking destination in autumn, when the leaves turn red but the volcano eruption came without any warning and wholly unexpected in otherwise cautious Japan for its earthquakes and volcanos.
“All of a sudden, ash piled up so quickly that we couldn’t even open the door,” Shuichi Mukai, a worker at the mountain lodge told Reuters. “We were really packed in, maybe 150 people. There were some children crying, but most people were calm.”
Mount Ontake or Kiso Ontake is the second highest volcano in Japan at 3,067 metres (10,062 ft), located 100 km (62 miles) northeast of Nagoya, at the borders of Kiso and Ōtaki, Nagano Prefecture.
Ontake has historical significance as older shamanistic actors and artists have to the mountain to put themselves into trances in order to get divine inspiration. The volcano erupted in October 1979 violently and erupting 200,000 tons of ash and saw minor eruptions in 1984, 1991 and 2007.