Volcano Ontake eruption intensifies; Search suspended in Japan

Graphic showing the profile of Mount Ontake, Japan

Efforts to recover the bodies of at least 24 climbers have been suspended again after the eruption on Japan’s Mount Ontake intensified.

A BBC correspondent near the mountain on Tuesday said the volcano was shooting out even more ash, smoke and rocks than before.

At least 36 people are thought to have died in Saturday’s unexpected eruption.

Dozens of other people were injured in the incident on the mountain, which is about 200km (125 miles) west of Tokyo.

Hundreds of firefighters, police and troops have been involved in search operations.

Twelve bodies have been recovered so far. Another 24 are reported to be on the mountain, including five more located on Monday.

Japanese authorities only declare fatalities once the body has been examined by a doctor.

Searchers on Mount Ontake (29 Sept)
Conditions were considered too risky for rescue workers to continue work on Tuesday

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.

Tremors

The BBC’s Rupert Wingfield-Hayes was observing the volcano from a distance of around 6km (4 miles).

He said there was a great increase in the amount of material and gas being ejected on Tuesday.

Security guards stand at the entrance of a road leading to the mountain trail of Mount Ontake in Nagano prefecture on 30 September 2014
Increased activity was observed at the volcano on Tuesday

Bodies of victims brought down mountain. 28 Sept 2014
The bodies of some of the victims were brought down from the volcano on Sunday

Aerial picture of volcano (27 Sept)
The volcano erupted unexpectedly on Saturday, leaving many hikers trapped

An official from Japan’s meteorological agency said volcanic tremors in the area could mean that another explosion was on the way.

“The strength of the tremors increased late last night, diminished and then rose again early this morning. There’s the chance things could get even worse, so caution is needed,” Yasuhide Hasegawa told Reuters news agency.

“This points to possibly increasing pressure due to steam inside the volcano, and if it exploded rocks could be thrown around, endangering rescuers,” he said.

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

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