NAGANO, Japan – The eruption of Mount Ontake has left 16 missing and 47 dead so far, but phone calls and other records indicate the numbers are likely to grow, Nagano prefectural officials said Friday. After examining records assembled by police, firefighters and town officials, including missing persons reports and, in some cases, testimony from hikers who survived but have been unable to find their climbing companions, the true toll from the disaster is set to climb. Police said earlier that 46 of the 47 victims were bludgeoned to death by falling rocks ejected by the eruption and the other victim died of burns, although no magma was observed. On Friday, rain again forced the suspension of search and rescue operations on the 3,067-meter volcano, which straddles Nagano and Gifu prefectures. The search teams were drawn from the Nagano Prefectural Police, firefighters and Ground Self-Defense Forces. Rescuers are bringing the bodies off the mountain by helicopter and had recovered 47 by Wednesday. In Japan’s most deadly volcanic eruption in modern history, the top of Mount Ontake blew shortly before noon last Saturday, just when many hikers had reached the summit and were enjoying lunch in the autumn sunshine, enjoying clear views of the Northern Alps. Fall is the mountain’s busiest climbing season. More
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