Eight people were feared dead and two were in critical condition after an avalanche hit a group of high school students and teachers climbing in Japan’s central Tochigi prefecture.
The avalanche occurred on Monday morning near a ski slope in the resort of Nasu, 160km north of Tokyo, where 52 students and 11 teachers were climbing, a local government official said.
Students from seven high schools in Tochigi prefecture were believed to have been on the slope when the avalanche occurred, officials said.
Public broadcaster NHK reported that at least six of the victims were students, who were found with no vital signs.
NHK also said that three other students were injured, while three teachers on the excursion could not immediately be contacted.
Japanese officials typically do not declare victims dead until a doctor has made a formal announcement.
"We have avalanche incidents once or twice a year around here, but haven't had anything this big," a fire department official said.
Tochigi prefecture authorities deployed Self-Defence Forces to Nasu where rescue efforts were hampered by heavy snowfall.