Rescuers lose contact with nine climbers

Kyodo

Police and rescue personnel were scrambling to locate missing mountain climbers Saturday after losing contact with at least nine of them in four central prefectures.

In Toyama Prefecture, police were searching for four people who disappeared as their Tokyo-based group headed for Mount Tsurugi in the Northern Alps.

In sprawling Nagano, the prefectural police said the search for an Osaka man lost in the Southern Alps had resumed by helicopter, but that two men from Aichi Prefecture remain missing on Mount Myojin, in the Northern Alps.

On Mount Fuji, which straddles Shizuoka and Yamanashi, police from both prefectures were on the lookout for two male climbers, one from Fukushima Prefecture and one from Tokyo, they said.

In Gifu Prefecture, meanwhile, climber Yutaka Nakanishi, 50, was airlifted off Mount Nishihotaka at around 9:10 a.m., police said, after he was found Thursday in a tent near the peak and suffering from frostbite wounds. He was listed in serious condition, and police confirmed he later died from exposure.

Police have been busy with search-and-rescue operations in the mountains since the start of the year, as many climbers went missing or were stranded after blizzards and cold temperatures hit a wide area of Japan.

Cold until February

The unusually cold weather in northern Japan is expected to continue until early February after cold snaps produced record snowfall in 18 locations last month, the Meteorological Agency said.

Temperatures in eastern Japan are likely to be colder than average as well, the agency warned Friday.

Most of the record snowfall took place in Hokkaido, which might be in store for about a week of extreme cold starting Wednesday. Along the Sea of Japan coast, heavy snow is predicted in northern and eastern Japan, with snowfall in the west projected to be slightly above average.

In December, record amounts of snow were recorded at 18 of the agency’s 330 or so monitoring points following a series of cold snaps.

Average temperatures for the month fell below normal in other parts of the nation as well, with the mercury in northern and eastern regions 1.4 degrees lower and western Japan 1.5 lower.