About 70 Japanese students and teachers from various high schools were said to be mountain climbing at the resort near Nasu Onsen ski resort north of Tokyo when the avalanche struck at about 9:20am on Monday.
Authorities said eight high school students are feared dead and more than 30 people have been injured after an avalanche at a ski field in Japan.The eight students have been found with no vital signs. Rescue officials were cautious about announcing deaths before doctors’ confirmation.Three more people have been reported missing following the incident.
The students from various high schools were participating in a climbing event at the Nasu Onsen Family Ski Resort in Tochigi prefecture in north of Tokyo that began Saturday and was supposed to conclude around Monday noon.Monday’s activities were supposed to end about two-and-a-half hours after the avalanche struck.
Fire fighters were present to help carry survivors they rescued from the site. Japan’s Self Defense Forces have been asked to help with the disaster response. Japan Prime Minister, Shinzō Abe, said during a parliamentary session that his government will make every effort to respond to the disaster, while making it a top priority to rescue victims' of the avalanche
According to Japan Meteorological Agency data, the avalanche followed heavy snow fall overnight. More than 1ft (30cm) of snow accumulated in the Nasu highlands between midnight and 9am.
Robert Speta, a meteorologist for NHK World, said Tochigi prefecture experienced an increase in unusual snows in recent. The snow combined with rising spring temperatures increased the avalanche risk. Heavy snow condensed with the warmer weather, and then once you have somebody on top of that, creates a trigger. These are all recipe for an avalanche creation.Speta added that typically the snow subsides off in late March, the snowpack settles and it’s OK for climbing and off-piste skiing, but just recently there was a big spike in the snow depth.