Avalanche hits central Japan

TOKYO: An avalanche buried over a dozen cars under metres of snow, blocking a road in central Japan and leaving over a hundred people stranded on the mountainside yesterday, officials said.  

No injuries were reported. 

Sixteen vehicles were covered in the midmorning slide along a well-travelled mountain road in Azumi village in Nagano prefecture, said a Matsumoto city fire department official on condition of anonymity. 

Rescue crews pulled all twelve people unhurt from their cars after digging them out from drifts up to 2m deep. Meanwhile, snow continued to fall into yesterday evening, the official said. 

Another avalanche struck a fire engine and ambulance as they approached the site, leaving them stuck in snow, he said. None of the rescue personnel were hurt, he said.  

Thirty-three people who witnessed the second slide from inside a tour bus were also confirmed safe, he added. 

But 150 people were still stranded in buses and cars trapped on the mountainside awaiting assistance. Their situation was not dangerous, but the road was made inaccessible to traffic by the heavy snowfall and emergency workers were trying to clear a pathway for the vehicles to get back down, he said. 

Azumi is located in the Japanese Alps about 180km northwest of Tokyo. Matsumoto, lying to the east of Azumi, is the closest city. – AP  

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