Scores of people are presumed dead after 31 bodies were found by rescuers following the violent eruption of a Japanese volcano on Saturday.
The hikers, which were discovered near the peak of Mount Ontake, were found in a state of “cardiopulmonary” arrest, according to police, while reports claim rescuers found them apparently not breathing with their hearts stopped.
“We have confirmed that more than 30 individuals in cardiac arrest have been found near the summit,” a Nagano prefecture police spokesman said.
Rescue workers plan to bring four of them down the mountain by Sunday night.
Nearly 550 soldiers, police and firefighters have taken part in the rescue operation to save dozens of hikers stranded on the volcano.
An extensive area has been covered with 20-centemeter blanket of ash, forcing nearly 150 people to take refuge in mountaintop shelters.
Nearly 230 hikers have managed to escape safely from the area after the eruption.
Japan’s meteorological agency has forecast further eruption and restricted access to Ontake.
The agency also called on local residents to stay alert, warning that potential eruptions can shatter windows miles away.
The last major eruption of Mount Ontake took place in 1979, during which it spewed over 200,000 tons of ash.
The volcano also had a moderate eruption in March 2007.