On Saturday afternoon, Japan's volcanic Mount Ontake erupted unexpectedly. Sunday turned into the day of recovery and assessment.
Mother Nature's not very happy with the world right now and she's spewing her ash across the world to get everyone's attention.
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Japan's Mount Ontake erupted just before noon on Saturday evening, sending a thick cloud of ash into the air that covered the surrounding mountain region.
The Weather Channel reports that "the 10,062-foot peak on the main Japanese island of Honshu is popular for climbers and outdoor enthusiasts." When speaking to Japanese news network NHK, one woman described the sound as "thunder" after a quick succession of "boom, boom [where] everything went dark."
Survivor stories are all over the news of those hiding in buildings, hoping the roofs would protect them, as seismic activity continued throughout Sunday and rocks continued to smash through structures.
Anna Fifield sketched out a fuller picture of the wreckage on the eruption for the Washington Post by collecting some of the personal stories.
At some point, the AP spoke to a shrine worker at the base of the mountain, Shinichi Shimohara, who confirmed the same thunderous sounds. “For a while I heard thunder pounding a number of times.” It’s easy to imagine some of the noise coming from strong winds and failing debris. He described how descending climbers were “covered with ash, completely white,” which made him realize the seriousness of the situation.
According to the Japanese network, over 40 people piled into huts looking for shelter, and another 42 people were injured. Thankfully, approximately 230 people made it down the mountain safely.
Shuichi Muaki told Reuters that as “ash piled up so quickly that we couldn’t even open the door,” the lodge managed “to really packed in, maybe 150 people.” Continuing on, saying, “there were some children crying, but most people were calm.”
Early Sunday morning, the rescue workers returned on foot to rescue those stranded by the dust cloud after officials deemed the area too risky to fly due to zero visibility. A YouTube video showed the devastation as climbers and cabins are encompassed near the summit. Afterwards, broken windows marred the building's appearance--a physical reminder of the sheer power that leveled the area.
The volcano continued to erupt throughout the night and was still going at nearly 6 a.m. and officials cautioned that the debris cloud may eject falling rocks into the ash cloud for up to a 2.5 mile radius.
NHK's Mikio Oguro described how a "massive ash suddenly fell" and blanketed the entire area. In a sign of luck, the crew used "headlights to find a lodge to take refuge." Later in the day, a discussion revealed his colleagues "thought they might die."
And when the Japanese meteorological agency raised the alert to a 3 after warning people to avoid the area.
550 emergency personnel joined the rescue operation Sunday to find 30 missing hikers thought to be dead. However, a Nagano police spokesperson confirmed to the AFP news agency that "more than 30 individuals in cardiac arrest have been found near the summit."
And the Washington Post notes due to Japanese law, the group may not be declared dead until a doctor examines the bodies. Four victims were confirmed and identified two men after being retrieved from the top of the mountain. The ash cloud covered some of the bodies in 20 inches of soot, while others were found in a nearby lodge.
An online gallery compiled by the Guardian shows the almost grotesque, garish colors of the rescue workers standing out against the stark, gray backdrop. Recovery will happen for the next few days while the Japanese government assesses the collateral damage from the unexpected disruption of life.
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