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Two foreign skiers hit by avalanche found in Japan; no vital signs

Three groups skied in backcountry near Nagano's Tsugaike resort despite advisory

An avalanche occurred in the afternoon of Jan. 29 in backcountry terrain outside of the skiing courses of Tsugaike Mountain Resort in Nagano prefecture, Japan.   © Kyodo

NAGANO, Japan (Kyodo) -- Two men who were missing after being caught in an avalanche while backcountry skiing in central Japan's Nagano prefecture were found by a search and rescue team Monday but were showing no vital signs, police said.

The two skiers, located by the police on the 2,100-meter-high mountain where the avalanche occurred a day earlier, were among a total of 13 foreign nationals who were skiing in three groups in the area.

They were skiing outside of patrolled areas near the Tsugaike Mountain Resort in the village of Otari when the avalanche struck, police said. The 11 others descended the mountain safely.

In total, five people were caught up in the avalanche, with three able to escape. One of the skiers who was initially reported by local rescuers as having broken an arm actually suffered a dislocated right shoulder, police said.

The police started their search early Monday after being unable to immediately begin Sunday due to weather conditions and other factors. The avalanche occurred at around 2:30 p.m.

An avalanche advisory had been issued for the northern Nagano region, including the village. The Japan Meteorological Agency said the region had received heavy snowfall over the past few days and had warned of a risk of "surface avalanches" due to an unstable snowpack.

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