NIIGATA (Kyodo) Two women were found frozen to death Tuesday after they and seven other climbers got lost on a mountain in Niigata Prefecture in bad weather, police said.
The accident came a day after three people climbing the Yatsugatake range in Nagano Prefecture froze to death Monday. They were not identified.
Miyoko Abe, 62, and Tamie Yasumuro, 54, were officially pronounced dead at a hospital. Police helicopters safely rescued the remaining five men and two women from 2,026-meter Mount Sennokura in the Tanigawa range by 8 a.m. The group, whose members ranged in age from 54 to 63, is from Kanagawa Prefecture.
A Niigata Prefectural Police helicopter spotted some of the climbers Monday, but strong winds hampered rescue operations, police said.
Group leader Tsunefumi Muto, 58, told reporters at the town hall of Yuzawa, Niigata Prefecture, later Tuesday that the party began their climb Saturday. Abe and Yasumuro got separated from the party a little after noon Sunday, prompting a search by the others, who camped on the mountain that night.
They found Abe buried in snow Monday morning, but there was still no sign of Yasumuro, and Muto called police for help.
“It seems they got separated when they tried to fix the cover of Ms. Abe’s rucksack, which had been blown off by the wind,” Muto said. “The weather was within the bounds of what we had expected, but it was my mistake for not ordering everyone to stay together.”
Also Tuesday, Niigata police resumed their search for climber Shunji Takakusa, 54, from Tokyo, who disappeared Saturday on 1,983-meter Mount Tairappyo of the same range.
Helicopters dispatched by police in neighboring Gunma Prefecture meanwhile safely rescued three men after inclement weather prevented them from descending the 1,974-meter Ichinokura valley in the range Monday.
Police resumed the search in the morning after suspending it Monday at sunset. The three, all from Tokyo, contacted the alpinist group to which they belong early Monday via mobile phone and asked to be rescued.
Rescuers found them at around 7:50 a.m., bivouacked at an elevation of roughly 1,500 meters.
Of the three, a 48-year-old man was hospitalized for frostbite and two others, aged 61 and 34, suffered dehydration, police said, adding the three remain conscious.