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Woman dies after warm weather triggers avalanches in Hokkaido

(Mainichi/Kazuhisa Soneda)

HAKODATE, Hokkaido -- Avalanches triggered by warm weather struck two municipalities in Japan's northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido on Feb. 28, claiming the life of a 44-year-old woman, police said.

    The avalanches occurred in the village of Akaigawa and in the town of Kamikawa. In Akaigawa, Remi Otsuka, an office worker from Tokyo's Setagaya Ward who was part of a group of six backcountry skiers, was caught in the avalanche at about 12:35 p.m. on Feb. 28. Police said she was later rescued but was confirmed dead at a hospital.

    In the town of Kamikawa, two members of a four-person group of climbers including students from Hokkaido University were caught in an avalanche on the 1,884-meter Kamikawadake peak at an altitude of about 1,400 meters. The pair were rescued by another group nearby, local police said. The two climbers reportedly suffered light injuries. It was reported that one of them was unable to move due to hypothermia, but their condition was not life-threatening.

    According to the Sapporo District Meteorological Observatory, the high temperature in the Hiroo district of southern Hokkaido reached 8.1 degrees Celsius on Feb. 28. Elsewhere in Hokkaido, the city of Hakodate saw a high temperature of 6.9 C, Yoichi 5.7 C and Sapporo 4.7 C -- temperatures normally seen between mid-March and early April.

    (Japanese original by Kohei Shinkai, Hokkaido News Group)

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