More than 30 hikers feared dead after volcano erupts in Japan

The hikers were found lifeless near the peak of Mount Ontake

Updated: 
Volcanic Eruption Injures Dozens in Japan

At least 30 hikers are believed to be dead after a volcano erupted without warning in Japan on Saturday.

Amateur climbers were trapped and the area around Mount Ontake was covered in ash.

The BBC reports that the hikers were found near the peak of Mount Ontake and were not breathing. Confirmation of death in Japan comes via a medical examination.

Around 250 people were trapped on the slopes of the tourist spot but most managed to escape.

"We have confirmed that more than 30 individuals in cardiac arrest have been found near the summit," a Nagano prefecture police spokesman told Agence France-Presse.

The number of those reported missing has risen and on Sunday, the fire and disaster management agency said that 45 people were still unaccounted for, The Guardian reports.

Japan's Self-Defense Force has deployed seven helicopters and 250 troops. Police and fire departments are also taking part in the rescue effort.

Shinichi Shimohara, who works at a shrine at the foot of the mountain, said he was on his way up Saturday morning when he heard a loud noise that sounded like strong winds followed by "thunder" as the volcano erupted.

"For a while I heard thunder pounding a number of times," he said. "Soon after, some climbers started descending. They were all covered with ash, completely white. I thought to myself, this must be really serious."

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