Photo: Kyodo News

36 hikers are feared dead after Japan's second biggest volcano erupted on Saturday.

Mount Ontake began belching huge quantities of smoke and ash on Saturday, leaving dozens stranded near the top, buried knee deep in ash, according to the BBC.

Photo: Kyodo News

The 10,062ft high peak was the first Japanese volcano to erupt since 1991. Just 125 miles west of Tokyo, it's a popular climbing destination with at least 250 people said to be climbing its slopes when it erupted.

One witness said he'd seen a boy shouting "It's hot" and "I can't breathe" before the ash clouds descended and everything went quiet, according to the Yomiuri newspaper.

There are warnings of further eruptions and volcanic ash may land as far as away as 4km from the mountain's peak.

Photo: Kyodo News

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