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At Least 31 Feared Dead As Volcano Erupts In Japan

At least 31 hikers were feared to be dead after a volcano in Japan erupted unexpectedly, sending ashes and rocks down the slopes crowded with people trying to see autumn foliage on Sunday.

Mount Ontake, a 10,000-ft volcano west of Tokyo, erupted without warning just before noon on Saturday leaving hundreds of people, including children, stranded on the mountain as it spews ashes and rocks as far as 2 miles down the slopes. It is Japan’s second highest volcano, next to Mt. Fuji.

Authorities said the 31 people were found in “cardiopulmonary” arrest but did not declare their deaths until doctors examine them, Reuters reported.

“We have confirmed that more than 30 individuals in cardiac arrest have been found near the summit,” a police spokesman in Nagano prefecture said.

A total of 40 people were injured, mostly of broken bones.

More than 500 forces from the police, firefighters and the military took part in the rescue operation on the mountain Sunday, bringing down some hikers on stretchers and others in helicopters, The Washington Post reported. Rescue efforts were temporarily suspended as the night fell and the strong smell of sulfur rise near the peak.

Most people found their way down on Saturday but at least 40 people spent the night as the volcano erupts.

“The roof on the mountain lodge was destroyed by falling rock, so we had to take refuge below the building. That’s how bad it was,” a resident told NHK national television.

Mount Ontake is a popular tourist destination with its beautiful landscape and numerous inns, especially during the start of the autumn season in September and October, when the leaves are turning red.

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