Without any warning, Mt. Ontake suddenly erupted trapping more than 200 hikers. The eruption continued for five hours. Vacationing or living near volcanoes as many major cities including Tokyo are very near active major volcanos, is dangerous. Most people have no idea what to do in an eruption. First thing is to cover the face, secondly, take shelter on the downside of large boulders though if it is a big explosion where the top of the mountain blows sky high, there is no way of staying alive within 50 miles.
Nagano police sent a team of 80 to the mountain to assist the climbers who were making their way down, while Kiso Prefectural Hospital, near the mountain, said it had dispatched a medical emergency team.
“We expect a lot of injured people so we are now getting ready for their arrival,” said an official at the hospital. More than five hours after the initial eruption, the thick ash cloud showed no signs of abating, NHK TV showed.
We can hear coughing as panicked hikers try in vain to outrun the eruption. Hot volcanic ash is very bad for the lungs and even when rescued, will cause lung problems perhaps for life. Volcanic ash isn’t like sea sand, for example. The pounding of waves or river sand which has water churning the rocks, are not very damaging.
But volcano dust is like broken glass and has very sharp edges which lodge easily in the capillaries and tissue of the lungs. Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis is the longest word in English, the short version is Silicosis. The worst symptoms show up after several years.
What is sad about all this is the hikers were there to breathe ‘clean air’ and stroll about, getting exercise. Now, they will suffer crippling problems and won’t be able to climb stairs much less mountains in the future.
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