• Kyodo

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An avalanche struck three skiers Friday morning near the Hakuba valley ski resort in the village of Otari, Nagano Prefecture, killing one of them, as a snow storm in the north brought record snowfall to Hokkaido.

Nagano Prefectural Police said the three were among a party of five men from Chiba Prefecture who dialed the emergency 110 number at around 11:25 a.m.

Masaaki Uno, 70, died of trauma after tumbling dozens of meters down the slope, while Shigeharu Hatayama, 67, broke his right arm, the police said. The remaining members managed to descend safely.

The avalanche occurred in a wooded area about 500 meters north of the lift terminal. A heavy snow and avalanche warning was in effect for Otari, and the lift operator warned skiers not to enter the mountains from around 8 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. The five men are believed to have entered the at around 9 a.m.

The accident on the spring equinox took place just as a low pressure system developed rapidly over much of the Pacific coast, causing snow and heavy winds. Nemuro, Hokkaido, had received a record-breaking 115 cm of snow by 4 p.m. — the most since data collection began in 1879.

In central Tokyo, a tent was blown off by strong winds in Hibiya Park at around 3 p.m., injuring three people. A gust of 77.76 kph was recorded at a nearby observation post around the same time.

In the meantime, around 41,700 households lost power in Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures between Thursday night and around 8 p.m. Friday, Tohoku Electric Power Co. said, after power cables were apparently severed by trees knocked down by heavy snow, it said.

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