A beautiful, clear day took a serious and tragic turn for hikers atop Mount Ontake in Japan on Saturday, September 27 when the volcano erupted suddenly, sending plumes of smoke, ash and rocks over 1,000 feet into the air.
About 250 hikers had been enjoying an idyllic fall hike around noon on Saturday when the volcano erupted. Those caught on the mountain desperately tried to flee the debris, but were quickly overcome by the clouds of ash, as shown by this eyewitness account:
The eruption left others trapped within shelters on the mountain. With up to 45 people still missing and 36 confirmed dead, officials fear the final death toll could surpass 70. As relatives of the missing waited for updates on their loved ones, rescue efforts involving Japanese military had to be cancelled after toxic gas continued to vent from the mountain.
Geologists are calling the recent eruption one of the world’s deadliest in the past 20 or even 30 years.
— PzFeed Top News (@PzFeed) September 29, 2014
In anticipation of further activity, Japan’s meteorology agency issued a Level 3 alert, warning people not to approach the volcano. At just over 10,000 feet, Mount Ontake is the second-highest volcano in Japan.
Japan’s sophisticated system for detecting potential eruptions did not warn of Mount Ontake’s eruption. Researchers believe this is because Ontake’s eruption was caused when water seeped into the volcano, boiled quickly under the surface, and exploded.
Before the eruption – Photo atop Mount Ontake
After the September 27 eruption:
12 confirmed dead in Mt. Ontake eruption in Japan. Toxic gas hampers search for other victims. (Photo via Reuters) pic.twitter.com/c0m1bAUQpQ
— ABS-CBN News Channel (@ANCALERTS) September 29, 2014
Our thoughts are with the victims’ families after this tragic event.