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Recovery of Bodies Underway at Japanese Volcano Mt. Ontake

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Military and other rescue workers began airlifting more than two dozen bodies from the ash-blanketed peak of a Japanese volcano on Monday morning, as family members of the missing waited at a nearby elementary school.

At least 31 people are believed to have died. Four victims were flown down Sunday, and rescuers returned to 10,062-foot Mt. Ontake on Monday morning to recover the remaining 27. Scenes broadcast live on Japanese TV station TBS showed soldiers carrying yellow body bags one-by-one to a camouflage military helicopter that had landed in a relatively wide-open area of the now bleak landscape, its rotors still spinning.

The four brought down Sunday have been confirmed dead, said Takehiko Furukoshi, a Nagano prefecture crisis-management official. The 27 others are listed as having heart and lung failure, the customary way for Japanese authorities to describe a body until police doctors can examine it.

Saturday's eruption was the first fatal one in modern times at Mount Ontake, a popular climbing destination 130 miles west of Tokyo on the main Japanese island of Honshu. A similar eruption occurred in 1979, but no one died.

IN-DEPTH

— The Associated Press

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