Japanese death toll at two in Nepal avalanche disaster


Searchers have recovered the bodies of two Japanese nationals from a mountain trekking zone in northwestern Nepal, where an unknown number of hikers were trapped by a blizzard and avalanche that killed around 40 people, local authorities and Japanese diplomats said Saturday.

The Japanese Embassy said the bodies were confirmed to be of Japanese citizens, one male and the other female. The embassy, acting on the requests from the bereaved families, withheld the identities.

But according to mountaineering papers filed with local authorities, the two victims, who were earlier listed as missing on the Annapurna trail, were Ichiji Sakamoto, 59, and Junko Takano, 54, both from Chiba Prefecture.

According to the local trekking association, Sakamoto and Takano began their trip without a local guide on Oct. 5 and were scheduled to return to their hotel on Oct. 25.

Three other Japanese nationals who had submitted trekking plans to local authorities and were reported missing have returned safely, local officials said. But a sixth Japanese national, a man who went trekking without submitting his trekking plans, remains missing.

The bodies of the two victims were found on the popular Annapurna Circuit trail, where hundreds of people were trekking when the blizzard struck Tuesday, authorities in the Mustang district said. Officials said personal effects found on Takano’s body included two Japanese passports issued to a woman and a man.

As of Friday, Nepalese search teams, aided by helicopters, had rescued more than 300 people from three mountainous districts in Nepal that were lashed by strong winds and heavy snow unleashed by a cyclone at the height of the October trekking season.

The dead include Canadian, Israeli, Polish and Indian trekkers as well as Nepali guides and yak herders.

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