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Rescuers carry people injured in an avalanche near a ski slope in Nasu in the eastern Japan prefecture of Tochigi.

8 boys show no vital signs, over 30 hurt in avalanche

UTSUNOMIYA, Japan (Kyodo News) - Eight senior high school boys caught in an avalanche Monday morning during a springtime climbing lesson on a ski slope in eastern Japan are showing no vital signs, local authorities in Tochigi Prefecture said.

A fire department said over 30 people had also been injured in the avalanche, adding it received an emergency call at around 9:20 am. The Tochigi prefectural government asked the Self-Defense Forces to send personnel to the town of Nasu on a disaster relief mission.

In Japan, deaths in such circumstances are not officially announced until confirmation by a medical professional.

More than 60 students from seven high schools in the prefecture, located around 120 kilometers north of Tokyo, were believed to have been on a slope when the avalanche happened at Nasuonsen Family Ski Resort in the morning, the authorities said. The avalanche occurred on the upper part of a slope at the ski resort, which had ended this season's ski operation last week.

The climbing event, which began on Saturday, was supposed to have concluded around noon, according to a person connected with one of the participating schools.

The students and teachers started climbing at around 7:30 am Monday, the person said. A 33-centimeter snowpack was recorded in the town in an eight-hour period through 9 am., which led the Japan Meteorological Agency to issue an avalanche advisory.

The central government has set up a task force at the crisis management centre of the prime minister's office.Prime Minister Shinzo 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.

(Latest Update March 28, 2017)

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