It was the suddenness of the blizzard that led to the deaths of three Japanese tourists on a mountain during a trekking tour near the Great Wall of China, according to the Chinese tour guide who accompanied them.
"The weather suddenly changed to heavy snow and we were unable to move," Ming Pingming, 25, said Monday in the village of Hengling, Hebei Province. "As we waited (for rescuers), we discussed happy memories of our families and the Great Wall."
A group of six people — four Japanese tourists, including the three who died, Ming, and a local guide — left for the Great Wall on Saturday morning. Although snow had been forecast, none of them anticipated it would be so heavy, Ming said.
Shunichiro Yanai, 76, who died in the storm, was the first of the group who could trek no further, succumbing in the county of Huailai, Ming said.
When the other guide did not return after going down the mountain in search of help, the remaining five spent the night talking, Ming said.
Villagers arrived to rescue them Sunday morning, but three of the four Japanese were unconscious and later pronounced dead, Ming said.
The only Japanese survivor, Miyose Watanabe, 59, descended the mountain and received treatment at a clinic in Hengling, Ming said, adding she appeared well and was able to talk and eat.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the Hebei government and the provincial committee of the Communist Party are taking the accident seriously. China will do what it can and should for those who died and those who were injured, he stressed.
Japanese Embassy officials plan to head for Hengling.
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