Japanese tourist dies while climbing Australia’s famed Uluru sandstone rock

Kyodo, AFP-JIJI

A 76-year-old Japanese tourist died while climbing Australia’s iconic Uluru landmark, Northern Territory police said Wednesday.

The police did not immediately identify the man or provide other details such as his hometown.

Duty Superintendent Shaun Gill told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that the man was taken to a nearby health clinic by helicopter but could not be resuscitated.

“This person’s believed to be a Japanese national. At this stage, we don’t believe it’s anything suspicious,” Gill told reporters.

Since it was opened to tourists in the 1950s, a total of 37 people have died while climbing the UNESCO World Heritage-listed monolith, which soars some 348 meters.

Scrambling up the treacherous sides of the sandstone symbol of the Outback, also known as Ayers Rock, is seen by many tourists as a must-do on their visit to Australia.

But they do so against the wishes of the traditional Aboriginal owners, the Anangu, to whom the site is sacred.

About 300,000 people visit each year and, while there are no official figures on how many climb, their numbers are reported to have declined significantly in recent years.

Signs around its base that request visitors reconsider climbing it have been in place since 1992. In November, the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Board of Management voted to ban climbing from October 2019.

According to The Guardian, research undertaken by the Australian National University in 2006 found that Japanese visitors were the most likely to climb Uluru, with 83 percent of them choosing to make the climb.