Bad weather kills 10 climbers

TOKYO: Ten climbers have died in bad weather in mountains in northern Japan, police said Friday.

Eight people died on 2,141-metre (7,024 foot) Mount Tomuraushi in the Daisetsuzan mountains on Japan's northern island of Hokkaido, a police spokesman said.

They were part of a group of 18 people who had called police on Thursday saying they could not continue near the top of the mountain due to bad weather.

Another man, believed to be climbing on his own, died on the same mountain, while a woman perished on 2,052-metre Mount Bieidake in the same mountain range, police said.

The causes of death were not immediately clear but strong winds and rain were reported at the time.

"It had been raining from Wednesday through Thursday as a low pressure system was passing through the area," Akira Muranaka, an official at the Japan meteorological agency, told AFP.

There were winds of at least 20 metres (66 feet) per second near the mountain tops and the temperature was about 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit), he said.

"The combination of the low temperature, strong wind and rain would have made for very severe weather conditions," he said.

One of the climbers who managed to descend the mountain told local television: "The strong wind almost blew us away and drained our strength and energy very quickly. The tour should have been cancelled."

The Daisetsuzan mountains are in Japan's largest national park, which is renowned for its natural beauty and dramatic landscapes.