No Pulse: Volcano rescuers find 31 unconscious hikers
TOKYO — Rescuers scrambling to save hikers trapped in central Japan by a volcanic explosion found more than 30 people without a pulse, officials said Sunday.
More than 500 police, firefighters and troops were mobilized in the rescue attempts on Japan's Mount Ontake after the volcano's sudden eruption on Saturday trapped dozens of hikers at its peak.
Seven people were rescued by military helicopters earlier in the day, but rescuers trekked up the 10,000-foot mountain to reach an estimated 40 people unable or unwilling to climb down on their own.
Once the rescuers reached the summit, they made the grim discovery, according to the Nagano Prefectural Police.
A large plume continued to rise from Mount Ontake, which is a popular climbing destination, on Sunday.
Shinichi Shimohara, who works at a shrine at the foot of the mountain, told The Associated Press that he was on his way up Saturday morning when he heard a loud noise that sounded like strong winds followed by "thunder" as the volcano erupted.
"For a while I heard thunder pounding, " he told the AP. "Soon after, some climbers started descending. They were all covered with ash, completely white. I thought to myself, this must be really serious."