The presumed death toll in the eruption of a Japanese volcano has hit 36 after five more bodies were discovered today, the AP reports. They were found near a shrine at the summit, officials say. Twelve bodies have been airlifted down the mountain, but 24 are believed to remain, and officials have paused recovery efforts amid a continuing threat from toxic gases and ash at the still-rumbling volcano. Some victims were found under 20 inches of the debris, officials say. Reuters puts the number of injured at 63, with eight missing.
It was Mount Ontake's first fatal eruption in the modern era, the AP notes. A minor eruption occurred in 2007 and a major one in 1979, though there were no fatalities in that case, Reuters reports. The latest blast was particularly tough to predict, an expert says, despite recent rumblings in the area. "They often occur quite suddenly and there is absolutely no guarantee that … earthquakes earlier this month were connected," he told reporters yesterday. "There is no guarantee of total safety when you're dealing with nature."