In eastern Japan, 4 hikers die near mountain trail after distress call

Four elderly hikers, two men and two women, were found dead on Saturday morning near a trail on Mt Asahi in Tochigi Prefecture, eastern Japan, following a distress call the previous day, police said.

A rescue team was dispatched by local police after they received a call from a man in his 60s at around 12.20pm on Friday saying one of the party could not move due to hypothermia. The four were spotted at three different locations and were confirmed dead where they were found.

The hikers likely lost their way somewhere along the route leading to and from the 1,896-metre (6,620 feet) peak in Nasu, located in the prefecture, the police said.

They have been identified as Seiji Noguchi, 69, Yoshiko Takeishi, 72, and Toshiko Takatsudo, 79, all from Tochigi, as well as Eiji Kimura, a 65-year-old doctor from Osaka, they said.

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According to the police, shortly after the initial distress call, they received a second emergency call from another hiker reporting that several people had fallen and could not move while one person had been “pulled up” after a fall. Both callers have made a safe descend, they added.

The rescue team initially headed toward the mountain but was forced to suspend operations at sunset due to inclement weather such as gusty winds, fearing a potential second accident.

The rescue team eventually resumed its search at 6am on Saturday and found them between 7am and 8am.

There were signs that Takatsudo had fallen, the police added.

An official of a ropeway company located near the mountain said that winds at the time of the incident were “so strong that one could not have stood still. There were several climbers who descended earlier than planned”.

With winds blowing at roughly 72 kilometres per hour (45 miles per hour) on average, the company suspended its services around noon on Friday.

Between 8am on Friday to 6am on Saturday, the highest temperature at the site was 6.5 degrees Celsius (43.5 degrees Fahrenheit), with the lowest reaching 4.5 degrees, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.


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Mt Asahi is a popular mountain for novice hikers, but guides have to regularly warn about strong winds on mountain trails, where there are no trees to offer shelter.

In May, two climbers were rescued by police after they were unable to make their descent due to strong winds.

The latest accident occurred as the number of stranded mountaineers in Japan rose to 3,506 in 2022, the highest figure since 1961, according to police data, due partly to climbing trails and mountain huts reopening following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Those aged 60 or older comprised over half of the total figure at 1,779, the National Police Agency said.

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