Volcanic smoke rises from Mt. Ontake, which straddles Nagano and Gifu prefectures, central Japan, in this September 28, 2014 photo taken and released by Kyodo. 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. Mandatory credit. REUTERS/Kyodo (JAPAN - Tags: DISASTER ENVIRONMENT) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN. YES
TOKYO (Reuters) - The death toll from a Japanese volcano eruption rose to 47 on Wednesday, the worst in 88 years, after more victims were discovered on the ash-covered mountain.
Military searchers resumed a recovery operation with helicopters early on Wednesday a day after officials called off rescue efforts because of poisonous gas and fears of another blast.
The eruption of 3,067-metre (10,062-foot) Mount Ontake, 200 km (125 miles) west of Tokyo, blanketed the summit with a deadly rain of ash and stone as it was crowded with climbers and hikers enjoying the autumn colors.
Police said earlier 48 people had been killed but later revised the toll down to 47. They did not say why they revised the toll but said more victims could still be on the mountain.
The toll exceeds the 43 people killed in a 1991 eruption in southwest Japan and becomes the deadliest volcano since a 1926 eruption on the northern island of Hokkaido, which killed 144 people, according to government data.
Japan is one of the world's most seismically active countries. There had been no fatalities since the 1991 eruption of Mount Unzen, which caused a pyroclastic flow of superheated current of gas and rock.
Mount Ontake, Japan's second-highest active volcano, had a minor eruption seven years ago. Its last major eruption, the first on record, was in 1979.
Hikers said there was no warning of Saturday's eruption just before noon. Hundreds were trapped for hours before descent became possible later in the day.
(Reporting by Taiga Uranaka and Stanley White; Editing by William Mallard, Robert Birsel)