Snow avalanche in northern Japan: 10 injured, one missing

An avalanche of snow buried an outdoor hot spring in northern Japan on Friday, leaving at least 10 people injured and one missing, officials said. The avalanche hit an outdoor bath at a traditional Japanese inn in Akita , 450 kilometers (280 miles) north of Tokyo , apparently burying bathers and staff who were cleaning the pool, officials said.

Eight women and two men were rescued and taken to nearby hospitals, but their conditions were not immediately known, said Satoshi Kusanagi, an official at nearby Omagari Fire Public broadcaster NHK said two people were seriously injured.

Rescuers dug up a man in his 30s, believed to be a missing hotel worker, from the pile of snow, said local police official Hitoshi Kuroishi. The man was conscious, but other details of his condition were not immediately known.

The search for another missing person continued, said another area police official, Kazutami Ogasawara. Another avalanche occurred earlier Friday at an inn about two kilometers (1.2 miles) away, Kuroishi said. A 65-year-old employee who colleagues feared had been buried in the snow was later found safe, he said.

There are seven inns in the area, some so popular that rooms are booked at least a year in advance, said prefectural official Yoshiyuki Maekawa.

Also in Akita , a separate avalanche covered a railway track, forcing a high-speed bullet train to make an emergency stop after its first few cars smashed into the mound of snow, police said. The train did not derail, and none of the 300 or so passengers was injured.

The National Meteorological Agency had issued an avalanche advisory for Akita on Friday. Record-breaking snowfalls have hit many parts of northern and northwestern Japan in recent months, reports the AP.


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