Two female zookeepers have been mauled and killed by at least six bears who broke free from their pens at a zoo in northern Japan.
One 75-year-old female employee of the zoo was found unconscious near the pens and confirmed dead upon arrival at a nearby hospital.
A second woman, aged 69, was initially believed missing. Her body was later located some distance away from the bear farm.
The bears are believed to have climbed over the walls at "Hachimanhei Bear Farm", a local zoo specialising in bears, possibly with the help of snow that had piled up in their pens, local media said.
Local hunters were immediately called in to the area and they shot four of the six escaped bears near the farm.
Another two bears managed to run into the woods before they were tracked down and also put down.
A distraught unidentified relative told Japanese broadcaster JNN:
– Relative of victim
"It's so sad. It's really too sad for words. It's just so hard to think this could even happen."
According to police, both women were believed to have approached the farm to feed the bears earlier in the morning.
A male employee in his 60s was also attacked but survived to raise the alarm.
Prior to the incident, there were a total of 38 bears at the farm.