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High school students killed in avalanche in Japanese ski resort | Asia | An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW

At least eight Japanese high school students were killed in an avalanche on Monday 160 kilometers north of Tokyo.

The students were among a group of 52 students and 11 teachers from seven high schools who were on the slopes of the Nasu Hot Spring Family Ski Resort in Tochigi Prefecture at the time of the disaster.

The students, mostly from Otawara High School in Tochigi, were found with no vital signs, an official from a disaster response group in the prefecture told AFP news agency.

In Japan, deaths under such circumstances are not officially reported until doctors can confirm them.

More than 30 people in the group were injured by the avalanche at 9:20 a.m. on a mountaineering excursion, authorities and local media said.

Weather conditions hampered the rescue efforts as a helicopter could not fly

“This is an annual event and we have never had a major accident,” one of the teachers told Jiji Press. “I’m really shocked.”

A warning of heavy snowfall and possible avalanches was in effect from Sunday to Monday in the area north of Tokyo, with the local weather authority forecasting snowfalls of 30 centimeters. The ski season was over at the resort, but some of its facilities were made available for the high school mountaineering excursion organized by the local sports schools.

Rescuers carry injured people in an avalanche at a ski resort in Nasu, Tochigi Prefecture

Authorities said six students were found with no vital signs

An official told Agence France-Presse that it still does not know how many teachers were among the victims. The “Asahi Shimbun” reported that a student was still missing.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in parliament that the government would “make every effort to respond to the disaster while saving the avalanche victims is a top priority”.

At the request of the governor of the prefecture, more than 100 soldiers were stationed on the slopes to help with the rescue operations. The Asahi Shimbun reported that bad weather prevented a helicopter from reaching the scene of the accident.

aw / rc (dpa, AFP, AP)

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