Ontake becomes worst postwar volcanic disaster

Central Japan volcano Mt. Ontake erupts —  Photo taken from a Kyodo News airplane shows columns of smoke rising from Mt. Ontake, a volcano straddling Nagano and Gifu prefectures in central Japan, at 2:34 p.m. on Sept. 27, 2014, with Mt. Fuji seen in the background, to the right. The volcano erupted shortly before noon the same day. Kyodo News photo

Central Japan volcano Mt. Ontake erupts — Photo taken from a Kyodo News airplane shows columns of smoke rising from Mt. Ontake, a volcano straddling Nagano and Gifu prefectures in central Japan, at 2:34 p.m. on Sept. 27, 2014, with Mt. Fuji seen in the background, to the right. The volcano erupted shortly before noon the same day.
Kyodo News photo

NAGANO, Japan (Kyodo) — The death toll from the Sept. 27 eruption of Mt. Ontake in central Japan reached 47 on Oct. 1, making it the worst postwar volcanic disaster in the country, as more victims were recovered from the mountain after search and rescue operations were resumed.

Police said 47 people have been confirmed dead from the eruption, which occurred near the 3,067-meter peak without warning shortly before noon on Sept. 27 when many hikers were having lunch at the summit, or making their way up or down the trails in the high season.

The death toll has exceeded the postwar high of 43 killed by the huge pyroclastic flow from Fugen Peak of Mt. Unzen in southwestern Japan in 1991.

Police earlier said the number of the deaths was 48, but later corrected the figure to 47.

At least 12 of the victims of the eruption seem to have been killed by flying rocks. The number of injured stands at about 70.

About 1,000 police, firefighters and Ground Self-Defense Force troops participated in Oct. 1 operations after efforts were suspended the previous day due to continued volcanic activity.

The search efforts on Oct. 1 ended at about 2:50 p.m. 

Straddling Nagano and Gifu prefectures, the volcano popular with hikers during the fall due to autumn leaves last experienced a major eruption in 1979, a minor eruption in 1991 and multiple volcanic earthquakes in 2007.

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