• Kyodo

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The bodies of three hikers were found Monday in a collapsed ice cave on Mount Arasawa in Niigata Prefecture, officials said.

The victims were identified as Seiichiro Hashizume, 57, from Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture, Hideo Hasegawa, 64, from Hachioji, western Tokyo, and Sadao Shinoda, 50, from Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture.

They were buried in ice Sunday morning when part of a snow bank collapsed. The snow bank had formed at the 1,000-meter level of 1,969-meter Mount Arasawa near the village of Yunotani.

The three were inside a dome-shaped hollow, about 3 meters deep, taking pictures at the time.

Police resumed their search Monday and found the bodies of Hashizume and Hasegawa in the morning. Shinoda’s corpse was spotted at around 1 p.m.

The accident took place around 11 p.m. Sunday, by which time the temperature in the nearby town of Koide had risen to 35.1.

The victims were among a six-member party who visited the snow bank to take pictures.

Two members of the group had left the ice cave before it collapsed. The sixth member, Akira Nishida, was inside the cave with the three victims but escaped by using a tripod he was carrying. He suffered minor head injuries.

Niigata Prefectural Police mobilized helicopters to search for the buried climbers but had to suspend operations due to the risk of the ice further collapsing.

Police and local firefighters resumed the search at 6 a.m. Monday.

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