Japan volcano: Bid to find survivors resumes

Rescue teams in Japan have resumed their search for survivors of a volcanic eruption on Saturday.

At least 31 people are believed to have died when Mount Ontake shot plumes of rock and ash into the air.

Hundreds of hikers were on the volcano at the time of the eruption. Most walked down to safety but others were trapped.

It is unclear how many people are still on the mountain, which is about 200km (125 miles) west of Tokyo.

Smoke was still rising from the peak on Monday as helicopters resumed a search of the volcano for survivors or bodies.

More than 1,100 firefighters, police and troops are involved in the operation. The bodies of four victims were flown down on Sunday and officials expect those of 27 more will be recovered soon.

Some of the bodies were found in a lodge near the summit and others were buried in ash up to 50cm (20in) deep, Japanese media reported.

Hikers who made it down the mountain told how a rolling cloud of volcanic debris had swept down its flanks, smothering everything in its path.

“Some people were buried in ash up to their knees and the two in front of me seemed to be dead,” a woman hiker told the broadcaster Asahi.

Another told how she had heard the last moments of a victim hit by a cascade of rocks.

“There was someone lying outside the hut after being hit in the back,” she said.

Bodies of victims brought down mountain. 28 Sept 2014

The bodies of some of the victims were brought down from the volcano on Sunday

“He was saying ‘It hurts, it hurts’, but after about half an hour he went quiet.”

Another survivor told the Yomiuri newspaper he had seen a boy shouting “It’s hot” and “I can’t breathe” near the peak, before ash clouds turned everything black and silent.

Relatives of those still missing are facing an anxious wait for news at a nearby elementary school.

One tearful father clutched a photograph of his son and the young man’s girlfriend, neither of whom have been heard of since the eruption.

An elderly woman told the Asahi network that her son had called her just after the eruption.

“He told me it erupted. He said ‘It’s over. I’m dying now’ and then the line was cut off,” she said.

Japan’s meteorological agency has forecast further eruptions and warned that volcanic debris may settle within 4km (2.5 miles) of the peak.

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