8 students presumed dead in Japan avalanche

TOKYO (AP) — Eight Japanese high school students were presumed dead after being caught in an avalanche Monday while being trained in mountain climbing at a ski resort, authorities and media said.

The avalanche occurred in the town of Nasu in Tochigi prefecture, about 190 kilometers (120 miles) north of Tokyo. Forty other people were injured, including two who were in serious condition, the prefecture said.

The Fire and Disaster Management Agency said eight people were found with no vital signs, though they had not been formally confirmed dead by medical personnel.

Japanese media said they were students who were participating in a three-day training program for members of mountaineering clubs from seven schools in the area.

Heavy snow had fallen overnight, so a planned climb was canceled and instead students were practicing moving through heavy snow as mountain survival training, public broadcaster NHK said.

One unidentified student told NHK by telephone that there was a strong wind and he could see a white mass heading toward him. An instructor said to get down, and then everyone was engulfed, he said.

Tochigi prefecture said 40 students and eight instructors were on the slope. Fourteen others in the group did not go out. The ski season had ended at the resort.

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