Hundreds of searchers trudged through a smoking moonscape of ash on the eastern face of Mount Unzen Wednesday to retrieve the last victims of a sudden volcanic eruption that killed 37 people.
Soldiers in silver flame-retardant gear recovered 22 more charred bodies, including those of a policeman and a free-lance cameraman, before the search was called off in the afternoon.Authorities said the six remaining bodies they sought were too high on the mountain to be retrieved by foot and that search crews would try to recover them by helicopter on Thursday.
Four bodies were pulled Tuesday from the ash and rock that burst forth from the crater of the nearby 4,485-foot volcano. Five people have died in the hospital.
Gray, powdery ash blanketed this grief-stricken city of 45,000 people about 600 miles southwest of Tokyo on the island of Kyushu.
Relatives of those missing in Monday's eruption filed through a Buddhist temple near the mountain, trying to identify some of the burned bodies that were recovered.
But many of the victims, who were engulfed by ash, rock and superheated gas that reached 1,470 degrees, were no longer recognizable, said a prefectural medical examiner.
About 800 soldiers sent to bring down the dead were gingerly making their way through the hot rock, ash and gas, prepared to retreat if the volcano erupts again.