Tokyo, Japan: Two men are presumed dead after their bodies were recovered following an avalanche in Japan, police said Monday, a day after an off-piste accident in the central region of Nagano.

The men were among five foreigners engulfed in Sunday’s avalanche, which took place at about 2:30 p.m. (0530 GMT) on the eastern slope of Mount Hakuba Norikura in the ski resort, a police spokesman said.

“The rescuers are now trying to come down to the mountain base with the bodies,” the spokesman added, saying police would need time to pinpoint details of the victims, such as their nationalities. However, US ski magazine Mountain Gazette reported that one of the dead was American professional skier Kyle Smaine.

Two men who were travelling with Smaine posted Instagram updates saying he had been killed in the avalanche.

Search teams found two men “in cardio-respiratory arrest” on Monday, police official Tomohiro Kushibiki told AFP, using a term commonly employed in Japan before a death can be confirmed by a doctor.

The other three skiers had climbed down the mountain on their own on Sunday, the spokesman said. The five were skiing in two separate groups on the mountain, which is 2,469-m (8,100-ft) high.

The missing two had been outside the patrolled areas of a ski resort in Otari village along with several other skiers and snowboarders when the incident took place on Sunday.

The others were able to return down the mountain, but two foreign nationals were still missing by Sunday night.

Kushibiki said he could not confirm the identities of the two men found Monday, or their nationalities.

But Mountain Gazette said Smaine, 31, had been killed in an avalanche in Nagano on Sunday.

The outlet said he was with another professional skier, Adam U, and the publication’s senior photographer Grant Gunderson.

“Yesterday was my absolute worst nightmare scenario,” Gunderson wrote in an Instagram post published Monday.

He said an avalanche had been triggered by a skier, and Smaine “was thrown 50 meters by the air blast and buried and killed”.

Last week, a cold snap blanketed much of Japan in heavy snow, including Nagano, which draws many overseas tourists during ski season.

Weather authorities had issued an avalanche warning for the area, following heavy snowfall in the past few days.

Fans were quick to leave tributes to Smaine on a video he posted on Instagram on Sunday showing him skiing off-piste.

“This is what brings me back to Japan each winter. Unbelievable snow quality, non-stop storms, and really fun terrain that seems to get better (the) more exploring you do,” he wrote in a comment accompanying the video.

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