Horror and Heartbreak In Japan As Volcano Eruption Buries Hikers [VIDEO]

by
Lauren Burgoon
Survivors caked in ash somehow make it off Mount Ontake, but dozens are presumed dead.

One day after a surprise volcano eruption in Japan, at least 30 people are presumed dead from the fiery ash that blanketed a popular hiking trail.

Mount Ontake, in south central Japan, erupted Saturday, sending huge plumes of smoke and ash into the air. Survivors caught the eruption on camera as hikers fled for their lives. 

Japanese officials are still searching for the missing. Thirty people were declared in "cardiac arrest," the term for those without a pulse and not breathing, but who haven't been declared dead by a doctor yet.

Mount Ontake is Japan's second highest mountain, only behind the famed Mount Fuji. Several decades ago, the Japanese thought the volcano inactive; then it erupted in 1979, sending 200,000 tons of ash down the mountainside. 

This is the first major eruption since then. 

Despite the surprise eruption, many hikers successfully navigated the steep, rocky terrain to run to safety. The victims were mostly found near the summit. 

Photos from the aftermath show just how thoroughly Mount Ontake buried its mountainside, dotted with shrines, in ash.

For more on the science behind the Mount Ontake eruption, Mika McKinnon as a great explanation.