Tuesday 12/12/2017 - 12:25 pm


Japan avalanche kills seven students and teacher


2017.03.27 04:41

Seven high school students and a teacher have died and more than 40 people have been injured after an avalanche hit ski slopes in Japan.

A total of 52 students and 11 teachers from seven high schools were taking part in a three-day mountaineering expedition near the Nasu Onsen resort, 93 miles north of Tokyo, when the incident occurred at about 9.20am (00.20am GMT) on Monday.

Seven students and one teacher were found with no vital signs, rescue officials told AFP. Japanese authorities are cautious about announcing deaths before doctors’ confirmation.

“I cannot have peace of mind until I see the students’ faces,” the deputy headteacher of one of the affected schools told the Yomiuri newspaper.

Japan’s Self Defense Forces have been asked to help with the disaster response. The prime minister, Shinzō Abe, said the government would ensure the rescue was a top priority.

The avalanche followed heavy snowfallovernight. More than 1ft (30cm) of snow accumulated in the Nasu highlands between midnight and 9am, according to Japan Meteorological Agency data.

Official avalanche advisories remained in force in the area on Monday.

Robert Speta, a meteorologist for NHK World, said Tochigi prefecture had experienced an increase in unusual snow in recent days despite it being late March. This snow combined with rising temperatures increased the avalanche risk, he said.

“Typically it tapers off in late March, the snowpack settles and it’s OK for climbing and off-piste skiing, but just recently we had this big spike in the snow depth,” Speta said.

“We had heavy snow, that condensed [with the warmer weather], and then once you have somebody on top of that, that creates a trigger. These are all a recipe for avalanche creation.”

The Nasu Onsen family ski resort, which has two lifts and one rope-tow, ended its ski season on 20 March.

The climbing trip reportedly began on Saturday and involved students from seven high schools along with instructors. Monday’s activities had been due to end about two-and-a-half hours after the avalanche struck.

In a separate incident in neighbouring Fukushima prefecture, a 70-year-old man was found unconscious after an avalanche on Monday afternoon. He had been climbing Mt Adatara with a 64-year-old man who was unhurt, NHK reported.

 

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