Saitama Prefecture to charge climbers for helicopter rescues


Under an ordinance set to take effect in January, Saitama Prefecture will charge fees to climbers who are rescued by helicopter, the first local government in the nation to institute such a policy.

Mountain rescue flights cost about ¥5,000 per five minutes, which primarily covers the fuel charge. As such rescue operations by helicopters take about 60 minutes on average, one mission can cost around ¥60,000.

The prefecture will introduce the paid services in six areas, including a three-kilometer radius around the top of Mount Kumotori, which straddles Saitama and Yamanashi prefectures as well as Tokyo.

The prefectural government selected the six regions based on past rescue operations. According to the prefecture’s fire and disaster management division, seven of the 12 rescue operations by helicopter during the fiscal year that ended in March took place in the chosen regions.

Beginning in January, those rescued by the prefectural government’s disaster relief helicopters will receive bills by mail.

But those who enter the mountainous areas to hunt dangerous wild animals, manage mountain cabins for climbers or participate in school activities will be exempted from the fees. The charges will also be reduced for welfare recipients and those who are stranded due to natural disasters such as earthquakes.