by Tony Inglis
RESCUE efforts are ongoing after a devastating avalanche at a Japanese ski resort left eight high school students feared dead and 30 more people injured.
Rescuers told local Japanese news that eight of the 60 children participating in a climbing expedition had been found in a critical condition but the authorities were unwilling to announce deaths without confirmation from medical officials.
The disaster occurred in the early hours of yesterday morning at the Nasu resort north of the nation’s capital Tokyo.
The head teacher of one of the schools with affected students said: “I cannot have peace of mind until I see the students’ faces.”
More than 1ft of snow fell overnight according to Japanese weather services with further snowfall hampering rescue efforts after the avalanche.
The country’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, said the rescue attempts were of top priority, with Japan’s military being sent in to the area to bolster the search.
Robert Speta, a meteorologist for NHK World, the international wing of Japan’s public broadcaster, said: “We had heavy snow, that condensed, and then once you have somebody on top of that, that creates a trigger.
“These are all a recipe for avalanche creation.”
Instructors, teachers and students from seven different schools had started their trip on Saturday and were due to come down from the mountain only two and a half hours after the avalanche struck.
Rescue officials at the scene have been unwilling to confirm loss of life until victims have been checked by qualified medical personnel.