7 missing after volcano erupts
TOKYO (AP) – A volcano in central Japan erupted in spectacular fashion Saturday, catching mountain climbers by surprise and stranding at least 40 injured people in areas that rescue workers have been unable to reach.
Another seven people were missing.
The injured, unable to descend 3 067-metre (10 062-foot) Mount Ontake on their own, are staying in mountain lodges, said Sohei Hanamura, a crisis management official in Nagano prefecture. Thirty-two people had serious injuries, including at least seven who lost consciousness.
Police, fire and military rescue workers were planning to try to reach the area on foot after daybreak Sunday, after deciding that the ash in the air made it too dangerous to use helicopters.
Hanamura said seven people were reported missing on the mountain.
Lodge managers are familiar with first aid procedures and were communicating with rescue officials in town, he said.
With a sound likened to thunder, the volcano erupted shortly before noon on a clear autumn day, spewing large white plumes of gas and ash high into the sky and blanketing the surrounding area in ash.
Smaller eruptions continued into the night. About 250 people were initially trapped on the slopes, but most had made their way down by Saturday night, Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported. Some were in shelters set up in four nearby towns.
One witness told NHK that the eruption started with large booms that sounded like thunder.
In a video posted on YouTube, shocked climbers can be seen moving quickly away from the peak as an expanding plume of ash emerges above and then engulfs them.
Many of those who made it down emerged with clothes and backpacks covered in ash. They reported being engulfed in total darkness for several minutes.