Japanese police were searching for two foreign snowboarders on Monday after an avalanche in the mountainous central region of Nagano the previous day.

The pair, reportedly unconscious, were among five people hit by the avalanche on Sunday, police official Tomohiro Kushibiki told AFP.

They had been snowboarding as part of a larger group outside the patrolled areas of a ski resort in Otari village, he said, adding that the other three had been able to climb down by themselves.

Japan’s Yomiuri newspaper said 13 people, including Americans and Canadians, had been off-piste when the avalanche took place.

Last week, a cold snap blanketed much of Japan in heavy snow, including Nagano, a popular region for snow sports that draws overseas tourists.

An avalanche warning and snow warning from the Japan Meteorological Agency are currently in place for the area.

A police team of 12 were conducting the search on Monday morning, but were not able to send a helicopter “because of bad weather”, Kushibiki said.

As for the missing pair, “we know roughly where they are but don’t know the exact location, as more snow accumulated yesterday,” he added.

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