At least 14 people killed in Japanese bus crash
An overnight tour bus on its way to a ski resort in central Japan has careered off a mountain road, killing 14 people and injuring 27 others.
Fire and disaster management authorities said the bus veered into the opposite lane near the famous resort town of Karuizawa, in Nagano state, smashing through a guardrail and slid down the mountainside before coming to a rest on its side against some trees.
The chartered bus was carrying 41 people, including two drivers who were taking turns, when it crashed in the early hours of Friday. The drivers were among the dead.
There was no snow or ice on the road in the area, about 110 miles north west of Tokyo.
The survivors were being treated at nearby hospitals, most for head, neck and chest injuries.
The bus fell about 10 feet down the mountainside and landed on its side, with its front window smashed in.
Television footage showed the bus bent in the middle, leaning against several trees as police investigators examined the wreckage.
The accident is the latest in a series of crashes in Japan involving tour buses that experts attribute to harsh working conditions for long-distance drivers. In some cases, drivers had fallen asleep at the wheel.
A fatal tour bus crash in 2012 that killed seven on their way to Disneyland prompted some legal steps to improve driving safety, but accidents have continued. There were several last year, including one that involved two deaths and 26 injuries.
Chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said the transport ministry had set up a task force and sent officials to the crash site.
"We must thoroughly investigate the cause of the accident so that similar accidents won't be repeated," he said.
Most passengers were ski enthusiasts aged 18 to early 20s, according to the Tokyo-based ski tour operator Keyth Tour.
Package ski tours that come with overnight bus rides, lodging and lift tickets for around 12,000 yen (£70) are very popular among college students.
A survivor, identified only as a college student, told broadcaster NHK that the bus swayed significantly before falling off the road and he was stuck in a small corner when the vehicle finally came to a stop.
"I desperately tried to get out and struggled and the next thing I remember is that I was outside," he said.