By Mark Leberfinger
Japan’s Mount Ontake erupted on Saturday, killing 31 people, according to media reports.
The people were in “heart and respiratory failure,” which The Associated Press reported is the customary Japanese manner of describing bodies until doctors can examine them.
The eruption also injured at least 40 people and left 250 climbers trapped initially, The AP reported.
Japanese broadcaster NHK reported that rescue efforts were suspended late Sunday and workers were leaving the volcano due to a strong smell of sulfur.
The volcano, 3,097 meters (10,161 feet) high, erupted around 11:53 a.m. Saturday, local time, on the border of the Nagano and Gifu prefectures. It last erupted in 2007.
Seven people were rescued from the mountain by helicopter, The AP reported. Police, firefighters and Japanese Self-Defense Forces were mounting a rescue operation on Sunday.
The Japanese Meteorological Agency issued a Level 3 volcano alert, urging people to stay away from the area. A 4-kilometer (2.5 miles) area was under the threat of volcanic ash.
About 50 centimeters (20 inches) of ash had accumulated near the summit of the volcano, NHK reported. There were also indications of possible pyroclastic flows at the volcano, a scientist told the Asahi Shimbun.
A military helicopter, aiding in rescue operations, flies above Mount Ontake as it continues to erupt, Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014, in Nagano prefecture, Japan. Mount Ontake erupted shortly before noon Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Koji Ueda)
There won’t be any precipitation issues to hinder search and rescue efforts in the area, AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls said.
“They could have a few light showers around Tuesday night into Wednesday, local time; otherwise, it looks pretty dry until Friday,” Nicholls said.
Aircraft were diverted around the volcano, the Japan Today website reported.