Sat, Feb 11, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Deadly avalanche buries bathers in northern Japan

AP , TOKYO

An avalanche of snow buried an outdoor hot spring in northern Japan yesterday, leaving one person dead and 10 injured, a news agency reported.

A 20-year-old man pulled from the snow almost six hours after the avalanche struck has died, Kyodo News said.

Masakatsu Ito, an official at nearby Omagari Fire Station, said the man was being taken to a hospital, but could not confirm his death.

Eight women and two men were rescued earlier yesterday and taken to nearby hospitals, none in critical condition, Ito said.

The avalanche hit an outdoor bath at a traditional Japanese inn in Akita, 450km north of Tokyo, apparently burying bathers and staff who were cleaning the pool, officials said.

Rescuers were still digging through snow in search of at least two missing people, believed to be hotel maintenance workers, said area police official Kazutami Ogasawara.

A separate snow avalanche earlier yesterday also buried a 65-year-old employee at an inn about 2km away, Ogasawara said. Rescue efforts were under way, he said.

The area has seven inns -- some so popular that rooms are booked at least a year in advance, said Akita Prefecture official Yoshiyuki Maekawa.

Also in Akita, a separate snow 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 its 300-odd passengers were injured.

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