Japanese authorities said Wednesday that 12 more bodies have been located near the summit of a volcano that surprisingly erupted over the weekend, bringing the official death toll to 48.
Search and recovery efforts resumed Wednesday after being halted due to concerns about toxic gas and the possibility of another eruption at Mount Ontake.
Nagano prefectural and police officials said that most of the bodies had been found near the summit, where many climbers were resting or having lunch. The mountain is a popular attraction for hikers due to its fall foliage.The Ground Self-Defense Forces helicopters brought more than a dozen bodies to the foot of the mountain Wednesday.
Relatives and friends of those who are feared missing in the mountain waited for news in a municipal hall in a nearby town of Kiso.
Medical experts who have examined some of the nearly 70 injured told Japanese media many of them had bruises, cuts and bone fractures on the back, an apparent sign they were hit by rocks flying out of the volcano. Some of them were badly coated with ash and had to be carefully washed to reach the skin surface.
Saturday's eruption caught hikers by surprise. Seismologists had detected signs of increased seismic activity at Mount Ontake, one of Japan's 110 active volcanos, but nothing signaled a fatal eruption.