Avalanches at Japan ski resorts kill 4, including 2 Argentine men

TOKYO (AFP) - Avalanches in and around Japanese ski resorts killed four people, including two Argentine men over the weekend, the police and media reported on Monday.

The two foreigners, aged 50 and 54, were visiting the Ryuoo Ski Park in Nagano prefecture some 400km north-west of Tokyo on Sunday, the police said. They were together with a man from New Zealand and a man and a woman from Australia, a local police spokesman said.

"When they skied off-piste shortly after 2pm on Sunday, an avalanche occurred and engulfed the two Argentine men," she said. "Their friends made an emergency call and rescuers found their bodies in the snow," she said, adding they were taken to a local hospital where they were confirmed dead.

The avalanche was 30m in width and 200m long, she said. Over the weekend, there were also two deadly avalanches in Niigata prefecture north of Nagano, reports said.

A Japanese man aged 48 died last Saturday after he was hit by an avalanche as he snowboarded, the Asahi Shimbun reported.

Another Japanese man, aged 35, was found dead in an off-piste area of a ski resort in Niigata, it said, adding police believe he was also hit by an avalanche.

Separately, rescuers were searching for three Japanese in their 50s and 60s who went missing while mountaineering on skis in Nagano, police said Monday.

They were scheduled to return to the foot of the mountain by Sunday evening but failed to do so.