More than 30 hikers are believed to have died near the peak of an erupting volcano in Japan.
Police said they were found unconscious and in cardiac arrest near the summit of the 3,067 metre (10,121ft) Mount Ontake, which erupted on Saturday, spewing large white plumes of gas and ash high into the sky and blanketing the surrounding area in ash.
Video footage posted online of the aftermath of the eruption shows huge grey clouds boiling towards climbers at the peak and people scrambling to get down as blackness envelops them.Hundreds of rescue workers are trying to reach those who are stranded
Footage on NHK national television shows windows in a mountain lodge darkening and people screaming as heavy objects pelt the roof.
"We have confirmed that more than 30 individuals in cardiac arrest have been found near the summit," a Nagano prefecture police spokesman told the AFP news agency, without elaborating further.
Nagano prefecture posted on its website that those found have heart and lung failure - the customary way for Japanese authorities to describe a body until police doctors can examine it.The mountain is popular with tourists and hikers
Hundreds of soldiers, police officers and firefighters have been involved in a large-scale search and rescue operation in an effort to save dozens of hikers who were thought to have been stranded on the volcano since it erupted without warning.
At least 250 people were initially trapped, but most made their way down by Saturday night. More than 40 people have been injured, and several have broken bones.
A suffocating blanket of ash up to 20cm (eight inches) thick covered a large area of the volcano, which is some 200km (125 miles) west of the capital, Tokyo.Climbers come down the mountain after the eruption
The volcano was still erupting on Sunday, pouring smoke and ash hundreds of metres into the sky.
Ash has been found on cars as far as 80km (50 miles) away.
Although details remain unclear, local officials believe 45 to 49 hikers sheltered overnight in cabins on the mountain, which is popular with tourists and hikers.
Military helicopters rescued seven people off the mountainside earlier on Sunday, and workers on foot are helping others to make their way down.A restricted zone has been set up in the area
A worker in a mountain lodge just below the peak, Shuichi Mukai, said: "All of a sudden ash piled up so quickly that we couldn't even open the door.
"We were really packed in here, maybe 150 people. There were some children crying, but most people were calm. We waited there in hard hats until they told us it was safe to come down."
Mount Ontake sits on the border of Nagano and Gifu prefectures, on the main Japanese island of Honshu.
The volcano's last major eruption was in 1979.