Eight foreign nationals caught in avalanche on Japan's Hokkaido, one unconscious

TOKYO: Eight foreign nationals were caught up in an avalanche at a ski resort on Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido on Thursday, one of whom was unconscious, police said.

Akihiro Hirakawa, deputy chief of the Furano police station, could not confirm earlier media reports that the whole group was French, or that the unconscious man was in cardio-pulmonary arrest - a term commonly used in Japan before a doctor formally confirms death.

Public broadcaster NHK said the unconscious man appeared to be in a critical condition while none of the other seven had serious injuries.

The group of six men and two women was skiing off-piste, when the avalanche struck mid-afternoon at the Tomamu resort.

"One man left the group to seek help from the ski patrol after the avalanche. He was French," Hirakawa told Reuters. "Seven people remain at the scene and we've spoken with one by mobile phone. One is unconscious."

The weather in that part of Hokkaido, which is popular with skiers - especially from Australia and other parts of Asia - for its deep, powdery snow, has been warmer than usual lately and that probably made the snow unstable, Hirakawa said.