3 Japanese perish in blizzard on China's Great Wall

November 05, 2012

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

HUAILAI COUNTY, China--Three elderly Japanese tourists died and another was being treated for injuries after they were caught in a raging snowstorm on a part of the Great Wall of China rarely visited by outsiders.

The toll was confirmed by the Japanese Embassy in Beijing on Nov. 5.

A representative of Amuse-Travel Co., the Tokyo-based agency that organized the tour, said at a news conference the same day, "We cannot say it could not be helped, given that three people lost their lives. We are extremely sorry."

The four tourists--a 76-year-old man and three women, aged 59, 62 and 68--came to grief in Huailai County, Hebei province, on the night of Nov. 3. They joined the tour separately.

They were accompanied by a Chinese guide, who managed to reach safety and reported what had happened to police. The tour party started the hike from western Beijing, according to China News Service.

Few tourists to the Great Wall visit the area because road conditions are poor, according to local authorities.

Amuse-Travel said it was the first time that it had put together a tour for this particular area. It did not advise its customers to prepare for snow conditions.

Snow started falling Nov. 3. Local media said it is the heaviest in decades. The heavy downfall made some roads impassable and communications were nonexistent.

According to the tour plan, the party was to have hiked 100 kilometers along the Great Wall over nine days from Oct. 28.

It was planned that they would walk 14 to 16 km each day during a period of five to eight hours.

They encountered the blizzard on their seventh day near the border with Beijing and about 20 kilometers southwest of Badaling, a noted scenic spot.

Amuse-Travel was suspended from business for 51 days in 2010 after seven hikers and a guide died in a rainstorm during a tour to 2,141-meter-high Mount Tomuraushiyama in Hokkaido the previous year.

(Atsushi Okudera, in China's Huailai County, contributed to this article.)

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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Cars caught in heavy snow in northwestern Beijing on Nov. 4, not far from the site of the tragedy (Atsushi Okudera)

Cars caught in heavy snow in northwestern Beijing on Nov. 4, not far from the site of the tragedy (Atsushi Okudera)

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  • Cars caught in heavy snow in northwestern Beijing on Nov. 4, not far from the site of the tragedy (Atsushi Okudera)
  • Tourists on the Great Wall of China in 2006 (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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