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Six school children feared dead in Japanese avalanche

Media captionRescue workers have tried to negotiate the snow-covered slopes

At least six Japanese high school students are feared dead, after they were caught in an avalanche at a ski resort.

The avalanche occurred on Monday morning at the Nasu Onsen ski resort in Tochigi prefecture.

Six people were found with no vital signs, Japan’s Kyodo news agency said.

About 70 people including students and teachers from several schools are said to have been in the area at the time.

Rescue efforts are under way with media reports suggesting more than 30 people were injured by the avalanche.

The children were taking part in a large scale mountain climbing event involving seven schools, local media reports said.

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The area has seen heavy snow since Sunday

Japanese authorities usually do not confirm victims as dead until after an autopsy at a hospital, said the BBC’s Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Tokyo.

The area around the town of Nasu has several ski resorts. The region has received heavy snow over the past two days and avalanche warnings had been in effect.

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Rescue efforts are investigating whether more people are injured or missing

Relief efforts are hampered by persistent bad weather in the area. Rescue helicopters are still unable to reach the scene.

Conditions on Monday were reported to be bad, with more than 30cm of fresh snow since Sunday.

Recent warm weather had further raised the avalanche risk.

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