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Rescue teams search for 5 missing backpackers in Utah

A search-and-rescue operation has been launched for five college students who went missing while backpacking in Utah over the weekend.

The students were hiking in the rugged terrain of the Elk Ridge area of southeastern Utah when they were reported missing by their families on Sunday afternoon.

Law enforcement said the students were last heard from early Sunday morning, and police have since launched teams on the ground to find the missing individuals.

“We have snowmobiles looking for them right now,” said Sarah Rose, a dispatcher for the San Juan County Sherriff’s Department.  

Rose said the sheriff’s department was expected to launch a helicopter to aid in rescue efforts.

She added that the surrounding terrain in San Juan County varied from canyons and mesas to mountains and as such could be difficult for hikers unfamiliar with the area.

Temperatures in the area plunged into the teens overnight into Monday, according to National Weather Service data.