Suddenly, a torrent of superheated ash elapsed down the slopes of the volcano. A group of hikers, at least 250 people, were on the scene. Some of them survived running. At least 40 people were injured, by flying rocks There were no significant earthquakes that might have warned authorities before. The mountain is a popular tourist attraction and the weather was also good. Japanese soldiers of Self-Defence Force, using seven helicopters managed to bring down some of the victims’ bodies but the operation was interrupted due to toxic gases and ash. More than 200 soldiers and firefighters, including units with gas-detection equipment, were part of the search mission near the peak. A smell of sulphur was perceived.
Saturday’s eruption was the first fatal one in modern times at Mount Ontake. “Even small eruptions can cause major damage if people are around, as they get hit by rocks that come flying,” Nagoya University volcanologist Koshun Yamaoka said at a news conference Sunday. The last time anyone died in a volcanic eruption in Japan was in 1991.