Three Japanese tourists die in China blizzard

Kyodo

Two Japanese women and one Japanese man died after being caught in heavy snow Saturday night on a mountain near China’s Great Wall outside Beijing while they were taking part in a trekking tour, local authorities said Monday.

Another Japanese woman and a Chinese man, a guide for a Japanese tourist agency, were rescued, authorities said.

Officials of the Tokyo-based travel agency Amuse-Travel Co., which organized the tour, said the two dead women were Yoko Ogawa, 62, of Tokyo, and Kuniko Watanabe, 68, of Saitama Prefecture. Miyose Watanabe, 59, from Toyama Prefecture, was rescued.

The agency said it had been informed by one of the two guides who accompanied the tour that Shunichiro Yanai, 76, of Fukuoka Prefecture, may have also died. Later Monday, Chinese authorities notified the Japanese Embassy that Yanai’s death was confirmed.

Three years ago, the agency organized a mountain tour in Hokkaido in which eight tourists and a guide froze to death.

The Japan Tourism Agency plans to question Amuse-Travel over its safety management.

A senior official of the agency said the company had been working on boosting its safety management in light of the 2009 tragedy, and that the agency is sorry for not being able to prevent another incident.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said the government had been informed by local authorities that two people had died and one had been rescued.

Yanai’s body was found after police, firefighters and military personnel braved heavy snow and poor communications as they tried to locate the man, according to local officials.

The Xinhua news agency said rescuers battled waist-deep snow during their search for the five after being alerted to their situation by a Chinese tourist who climbed down the mountain to seek help. Some 200 people reportedly searched for Yanai on Monday.

The incident occurred near the border between Beijing and Hebei Province.

The five Japanese, together with their Chinese guide, were walking on a mountain overlooking the Great Wall. They apparently lost their way during the blizzard after climbing the mountain from the Beijing side Saturday morning before touring a section of the wall, according to Xinhua.