TOKYO - More than 30 people were feared dead on Sunday near the peak of the Japanese volcano that erupted a day earlier, sending a huge cloud of ash and rock tumbling down its slopes, while packed with hikers.
Police said they were found in a state of "cardiopulmonary" arrest, but declined to confirm their deaths pending a formal examination, as per Japanese custom.
Hundreds of people, including children, were stranded on Mount Ontake after it erupted without warning on Saturday, sending ash pouring down the slope for more than 3 km (2 miles.)
Most made their way down that evening but at least 30 spent the night near the 3,067 meter (10,062 feet) peak.
More than 40 people were injured, several with broken bones, and authorities were trying to confirm the whereabouts of 45 people, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency said earlier.
The volcano was still erupting on Sunday, pouring smoke and ash hundreds of meters into the sky. Ash was found on cars as far as 80 km (50 miles) away.
Volcanoes erupt periodically in Japan, one of the world's most seismically active nations, but there have been no fatalities since 1991, when 43 people died in a pyroclastic flow, a superheated current of gas and rock, at Mount Unzen in southwestern Japan.