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Chinese man missing from Zao Onsen mountain resort in northwest Japan, woman found safe

Rescuers leave from near the Zao Ropeway's Jizo Sancho Station to search for a Chinese man missing in the area, in the city of Yamagata on the morning of Feb. 3, 2020. (Mainichi/Kaoru Watanabe)
A woman, right, walks to an ambulance from the Zao Ropeway's Zao Sanroku Station, accompanied by rescue workers, in Zao Onsen, Yamagata, on Feb. 4, 2020. (Mainichi/Kaoru Watanabe)

YAMAGATA -- A Chinese man has been reported missing from the Zao Onsen mountain resort in this northwestern Japan city, while a second person earlier reported missing was found safe after she took shelter in a mountain hut.

At around 4:15 p.m. on Feb. 2, a woman from Yokohama's Tsurumi Ward reported to the Zao ski patrol unit that her husband, a 36-year-old company employee of Chinese nationality, had not come back after heading to Mount Kumano and Mount Katta from the Zao Ropeway's Jizo Sancho Station in the city of Yamagata.

According to Yamagata Police Station, the couple arrived at the resort on Feb. 1. The following day, the husband left at around 9 a.m., saying, "I'm going to see Okama (the crater lake of Zao)." Although he was supposed to meet up with his wife at Jizo Sancho Station at noon the same day, he did not show up, and she was unable to reach him on his mobile phone.

The police station's mountain rescue unit began searching for the man at 8:30 a.m. on Feb. 3, deploying a team of 18 rescuers including members of the Zao ski patrol unit, but called off the operation at around 2:40 p.m. due to poor visibility caused by snowfall and other factors. The rescue operation resumed on the morning of Feb. 4.

Meanwhile, a 34-year-old woman who told rescuers she was from Taiwan was found safe on the morning of Feb. 4 after taking shelter in a mountain hut in neighboring Miyagi Prefecture.

The woman had contacted a person affiliated with the accommodation facility she was living and working at via social media on the evening of Feb. 3, saying, "Visibility is poor. I'm taking shelter in a mountain hut." The woman had apparently been skiing after getting off the Zao Ropeway at Jizo Sancho Station in the city of Yamagata.

A rescue team comprising members of the Zao ski patrol unit and the city's mountain rescue squad found the woman inside the Mount Kumano hut in Kawasaki, Miyagi Prefecture, at around 8:05 a.m. on Feb. 4.

According to rescuers, she was sitting on a bench inside the shelter hut. When she was offered bread and a hot drink, she took them while shivering. "I'm just so happy we got to find her," one of the rescuers said.

The woman subsequently took the same ropeway to travel down to Zao Sanroku Station and walked to an ambulance nearby.

According to the Yamagata Police Station, the woman had been working at the accommodation facility in Zao Onsen as a live-in part-timer since late last year and was planning to work there until the spring of 2020. She was off duty on Feb. 3 and had told her colleague at around 10 a.m., "I'll go skiing."

(Japanese original by Kaoru Watanabe and Yoshihiro Ezure, Yamagata Bureau)

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