TOKYO, Japan – At least 14 people have been killed after a bus taking a group of holidaymakers to a ski resort veered off the road in central Japan.
Chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference in Tokyo that 14 people were killed and 27 others were injured in the single vehicle crash.
Suga, the government’s lead spokesman, said the transport ministry had launched an investigation into the accident, sending inspectors to the site.
The nature of the injuries suffered the survivors was not immediately clear but early reports said 19 were seriously hurt.
The accident occurred in the early hours of Friday near the town of Karuizawa in Nagano prefecture, a popular destination for skiers and snowboarders.
The bus was carrying 41 people, including two drivers, when the accident occurred about 2.5k south of Karuizawa station.
The Asahi TV network quoted an unnamed survivor as saying that almost all of the 39 passengers had been asleep when the bus veered on to the wrong side of the road and careered several meters down a hill at about 2 am.
The vehicle reportedly crossed the central reservation on a downhill bend in the road, before smashing through a guardrail and rolling down the hill.
TV networks showed the white bus lying on its side several meters from the road.
The front of the vehicle, which was resting against trees, appeared to have sustained the worst damage.
Kyodo News said the road had not been icy at the time of the accident.
The party left Tokyo on Thursday evening on a tour organized by a travel agency in the capital that specializes in low-cost ski and snowboarding holidays, the public broadcaster NHK said.