Otaki, Japan: A dozen more bodies were found on Wednesday near the ash-covered summit of a Japanese volcano as searches resumed amid concern of toxic gasses and another eruption.
The death toll from last Saturday's surprise eruption at Mount Ontake stands at 48 after Wednesday's additions, Nagano prefectural police said.
Prefectural and police officials said most bodies were found around the summit, where many climbers were resting or having lunch.
The Ground Self-Defense Forces helicopters brought more than a dozen bodies to the foot of the mountain Wednesday.
Relatives and friends of those who are feared missing in the mountain waited for news in a municipal hall in a nearby town of Kiso.
Medical experts who have examined some of the nearly 70 injured told Japanese media many of them had bruises, cuts and bone fractures on the back, an apparent sign they were hit by rocks flying out of the volcano. Some of them were badly coated with ash and had to be carefully washed to reach the skin surface.
The eruption caught hikers by surprise. Seismologists had detected signs of increased seismic activity at Mount Ontake, one of Japan's 110 active volcanos, but nothing signaled a fatal eruption.