A volcano in Japan rumbled to life today unexpectedly, killing a female hiker, the Japan Times reports. At least 40 people were hurt in the eruption of Mount Ontake in central Japan, the AP reports, and the Times notes that 16 were knocked unconscious, per an official. Seven were said to be missing. The mountain spewed ash and initially trapped about 250 hikers on its slopes, reports Reuters. The eruption occurred at midday local time, and by evening most of the trapped hikers had made it down to safety, reports the AP. Many injured, however, are staying in lodges on the mountain.
Given the scope of the smoke and ash plumes, it could take a while to account for everyone. "It was like thunder," a woman tells broadcaster NHK of the first eruption. "I heard boom, boom, then everything went dark." The 10,062-foot Mount Ontake is about 125 miles west of Tokyo, on the border between Nagano and Gifu prefectures, and Reuters says it last erupted in 2007. "It's all white outside, looks like it has snowed," an employee of a mountain hut for hikers told the news agency about five hours after the first eruption. "There is very bad visibility and we can’t see the top of the mountain." (Click to read about how a commonly accepted explanation about volcanoes might be wrong.)