Mount Ontake rescuers race against typhoon as death toll rises to 56

Kyodo

Rescuers on Sunday raced to find more bodies on Mount Ontake as an approaching typhoon raised the risk of another suspension in the wake of the fatal eruption two weeks ago.

On Saturday, the teams found the body of another eruption victim near the volcano’s peak, bringing the official death toll to 56.

The victim was identified as Hiromitsu Takagi, 37, from the village of Minami-Minowa in Nagano Prefecture, local police said.

Parts of another body were also found nearby, but police said identifying the remains would take time. Both the body and the remains were found under boulders as some 550 police officers, firefighters and Ground Self-Defense Force troops combed the mountain for signs of the missing hikers.

Seven people are still listed as missing on the volcano.

According to authorities in Nagano Prefecture, which shares the mountain with neighboring Gifu Prefecture, the potential search area is around 260,000 sq. meters, excluding the vicinity of the crater and sharp cliffs.

After that whole area was searched by Friday, Saturday’s efforts focused on potentially overlooked spots, with search teams breaking up boulders using drills hauled up the mountain by helicopter.

According to the Meteorological Agency, Typhoon Vongfong is projected to bring heavy rain to the area starting Sunday. Snow could also start falling on Mount Ontake’s peak this week, further complicating the search.

Some members of the search teams are suffering from altitude sickness and hypothermia, Nagano authorities said.