File photo: AFP

Seven people died after being hit by an avalanche on Saturday on a mountain in Japan's central Toyama prefecture, local police said.

The seven - four men and three women - were climbing or skiing when the avalanche, an estimated 30 metres wide and 600

metres long, hit on a western slope of the 2,860-metre-high Mt Masago, police said.

They were taken to hospital by helicopter but were confirmed dead, police said.

A local police officer said rescuers were continuing the search as it was not clear if there were any other people on the mountain at the time of the avalanche. -Sapa-AFP